Embedding an Appreciative Focus

in Your Reviews

Appreciative Inquiry (AI), when applied to reviews, encourages learning from strong practice. When we begin our review conversations with a strengths focus or solutions focus we :

i. increase motivation & engagement in  a review setting

ii. encourage greater performance 

iii. enable teams to be more effective in managing change

How Can We Learn AI in a Way Which Will Effectively Embed the Approach in Our Reviews?

Do you remember when you learned to drive? You had to learn it to unlearn it. You start off doing it consciously then with time you don’t have to think about it.

When we want to execute reviews in which strong practice is given a higher priority there are 4 stages along the way. 

  1. Unconscious Incompetence — We don’t know what we don’t know yet. There is a skill we are missing but we don’t know what it is yet. In many ways it is a vulnerable and dangerous stage in our learning journey, But it’s also the starting point of all learning. The skill is in acknowledging that there will always be new learning to be had while trusting that when the time and circumstance is right, we will naturally move to the next stage.
  2. Conscious Incompetence — Now we realise there is a gap and identify the exact skill we need to develop. If we want to learn and grow. we set to work to close the gap. In a review this may look like an intention to begin the review with an appreciative focus, finding areas of it which feel impossible to convert to an appreciative style & / or finding the approach of others brings us back to deficit focus.
  3. Conscious Competence — This is where the learning begins. Now we are actively working on the skill but we are yet novices. We try some things, we fail, we learn some lessons and try again. We keep getting better. Our new style terms of reference may feel like a game changer, but the appreciative recommendations still feel like a stretch, for example. The key here is to be persistent and determined and keep practising & trouble shooting with colleagues & mentors.
  4. Unconscious Competence — The final stage where we’ve mastered the new skill or behaviour such that its instinctual. We are not practicing anymore. While we’re still learning and growing, we’ve established a strong foundation and can be confident about our competency in that area.

We use scripts when we teach this. Scripts enable you to practise with examples from reviews. They also help you to see what kind of responses throw you off track.

When you come from a starting point of being a naturally strengths focused or solutions focused individual, you have a head start. In SILP reviews we refer to having an appreciative focus. Click here to understand the fit between strengths focus, solutions focus and appreciative inquiry. Reviews with an appreciative focus incorporate these 3 intertwining strands and embed them within the 4 pillars of an appreciative SILP review. Our model can be summarised in the diagram below. 


Would you like to assess how strengths focused you are? If you are keen to learn more, click here to discover your score & what it means.