Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Systemic Thinking

The heliocentric principle

Based on AI we know that there is magic and joy in working with development. People and social systems evolve towards the most promising future. Everything is attracted to the sun in the centre which your shinning dreams and visions.

According to Gregory Bateson (English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields) the challenge of contemporary systems is to think new and different.

There is a thin line between “fear and excitement”. Go out into the unknown and find a new security. The comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there.

No ontology

Nothing exists in itself. Social relationships are the foundation of how we create our world. We dance with our surroundings in different ways, depending on our personal preferences. The interaction with the outside world is crucial to how the outside world is understood. We communicate all the time: We cannot not communicate.

The examiner accepts all stories as true

The examiner accepts all stories as being true on people’s own terms. We can only understand the world from our own subjective, self-referential framework. Opinion, response and emotions are linked to the discourse we are acting in.

To consider what someone else would think about something invites us to put ourselves in the place of others (dyadic questions).

How is their ability to communicate in the context?
How do they master the situation?
How have they understood the roles?
Which dance do I dance, and how are the others dancing?
What are our respective pre-conditions for dancing as we do?
How do we interpret our dance in the context in which we operate at the moment?
What dance are we going to dance?
Can we coordinate with each other on the dance floor?
What rules do we need?
What are the criteria in different contexts?
Can we create the possibility that there are different ways of dancing and not one specific right way?
How are we communicating?
Should we extend the concepts through which we communicate?
Can points be re-negotiated within the framework?

The examiner identifies contexts

The examiner does not seek to find the truth but to clarify links and identify different contexts:

In which context does our problem live?
What happens in situations where the problem does not materialize?
What resources do you then use?
What’s the least you could do that will make a big impact?
The examiner is part of the object being studied (Niels Bohr).
People who investigate are part of the object being studied. The observer cannot observe something without simultaneously observing the criteria for self-observation. All observation is also self-observation. There is little correlation between knowledge and what we are looking at. From first to the second-order cybernetics. Effect contra investigation. Therefore self-observation and awareness increase your ability to reflect and match complexity and thereby reduce it to clarity and simplicity.

All behaviour comes from meaningful and valuable intentions

Invite to relational thinking.

What things could I not avoid to love by being with you?
What are you yourself so proud of that I want to preserve it?
What do you admire most about the others?
What is the first thing you come in thinking that we could get something out of?
Social construction in practice.
Gregory Bateson: “My world is unfolds in the process that I create it.”

Design your own reality

Relation between “positive emotion and positive action” (David Cooperrider).

Pygmalion effect

The expectations with which we meet others are helping to make them to become what they are (self-fulfilling prophecy).

The placebo effect

Expectations of a positive and healing effect can itself induce human self-healing powers. Positive emotional, inner dialogue (positive self-image and outlook on others).

Cultural vitality

The heliocentric view is the key explanatory variable for understanding cultural evolution, meta-cognitive competence (Dutch sociologist, Fred Polak).

Social constructivism

Correlation between the physical world and one’s thoughts versus social constructionism. Organizations are living human constructions. People create their own reality, including organizational realities, to a much greater extent than we previously thought.

Better relationships and better communication

We create better relationships by changing communication and better communication by changing relationships.

We explore stories

We explore the silent stories of relationships, contexts (relationships between contexts / stories) and dreams. Find the dream behind a possible problem. What are your dreams and what could be done?

What values ​​do you dream about that others are talking about you having?

We make the implicit explicit

Rediscovering the past and leaving the past and looking into a new linguistic reality – what things mean that we have ended up where we are? Make the implicit explicit.

The language creates our reality

Our language cannot operate beyond its borders – we cannot construct or recognise something that we do not have the potential. Organisational change is often to introduce new metaphors through which reality is perceived in the realisation that we speak different languages ​​and understand different things by the same.

Systemic method

Expand the system under consideration; find the pattern that locks the system. Introduce stories that can transform the system. The use of language is very important in terms of how we communicate with each other and how we perceive the world. We make structural links between ourselves and the world through language. The language offers a potential for change: In the appreciative discourse words are momentum and potential.

It is important to appreciate the diversity

With communication or interaction metaphor, we enter a room of diversity. Different stories in games.

What did you learn from the past?

The things you take with the past, should be the best.

There is always something that works. In any system, organisation or group, there is something that works.

What we focus on becomes our reality

Often we focus more on the stories others tell about us than the stories we tell about ourselves (Paul Riceur, French philosopher best known for combining phenomenological description with hermeneutics).

There are many realities

Reality is created in the moment and therefore there are many realities.

Leadership is relational

We create our world to meet each other. The field of study is the relationship with the outside world (interaction metaphor versus separation metaphor).

Niklas Luhmann (German sociologist and prominent thinker in systems theory, who is increasingly recognised as one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century):

It does not help to have some skills if they are not relevant in the context. The wrong context cannot be applied (eg, a surgeon in a prison). Leadership is a relational matter.

There are many different epistemologies

Episteme = truth.

Logos = knowledge or doctrine. For example “autopoesis” (from Greek αὐτo- (auto-), meaning “self”, and ποίησις (poiesis), meaning “creation, production”) refers to a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself.

Aristotle: 3 worlds:

The physical world: theoria.

The social world: praxis, moral obligations.

The man-made: engineering, poetry etc. (moral obligation to do better).

Questions affect a process

In a process where there are questions about a system, an organisation or a group, there will be an impact.

Confidence when researching the future

People have more confidence when they research in the future if they have roots in reality and what they know and what they know they can do.

Language games – surplus language

Appreciate the life force and create a vocabulary full of hope and life – a surplus language.


It is allowed that members move in opposite directions.

Commitment to change communication

What resources can engage people to change communication?

Co-creation and meaning

It gives the freedom to do your best, when you recognize that you are co-creators in relation to the present, future and the past. It gives the sense of wonder of life and it gives miraculous and life-giving experiences meaning and direction.

Spiritual stories

Spirituality is important when working with constructionism – we need spiritual stories to comprehend reality and to find purpose in our development.