Appreciative Inquiry looks at change and situations from a positive perspective, doing more of what is already working, rather than trying to identify and fix problems.

Focusing on strengths

Problem solving works on the assumption there is a problem or assumption that needs to be changed or rectified, that there is a cause of the problem which needs to be analysed in order to fix the problem. Appreciative inquiry focuses on strengths and a process for facilitating positive change in people and organisations. It identifies on identifying and doing more of what is already working. It focuses on core strengths and using them to shape the future.

The focus is on existing strengths, achievements and successes. Aspects of the coachee that motivate them and getting positive outcomes as a starting point to achieve desired goals. The past is still considered but the focal point is to get to a more positive place. By the coach asking positive questions this creates a positive state of mind in the coachee. 

Four stages of appreciative inquiry

  • Discovery – identifying what is working well
  • Dream – the process of identifying what would work well in the future.
  • Design – finding a way of moving forward where positive change is seen in strategies, processes, systems, decisions and relationships
  • Destiny – encouraging action from discussion on discovery, dream and design

In reality the 4D’s look like this for the coach:


  • What’s happening generally at the moment?
  • What’s working well for you in relation to your topic area?
  • How is this helping you?
  • What does this bring to your role?
  • What have you learnt about yourself through this?
  • Tell me what have you done here?
  • What is it you are doing that is being helpful here?


  • How do you want this situation to be in the future?
  • What would this give you?
  • How would this help your situation?
  • What are your hopes for this situation?
  • If this was in place what would be happening around you?
  • How would you be performing and what behaviours would you be exhibiting?
  • How would you be feeling?
  • What would this bring you / others / the organisation


  • What needs to be in place to help you achieve this?
  • Who is there with the knowledge and experience to help you?
  • Where have similar things been done before? How did they achieve that?
  • How has the company attempted this before?
  • What skills do you have which could help you here?
  • What is required to be in place?
  • Where could you go to learn this or seek guidance?
  • What else matters here?


  • How will you approach this?
  • What needs to happen first?
  • What interdependencies are there?
  • Name other key actions
  • Which key stakeholders will you engage with first?
  • Which are the higher value actions for you?

By reading through these questions it is clear to see how these positive questions can influence coachees mindset around their situation, where they are going and how they get there.