In the spirt of the strengths approach, we also borrow from the Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focus  and Positive Deviance Schools.  Below are short notes about these schools compiled by David Shaked in his book Strength-Based Lean Six Sigma – Building positive and engaging business improvement that is published by Kogan Page Limited 2014.  Parts have been paraphrased in our own language.

 1. Appreciative Inquiry

AI is a unique way of asking questions that enable a team or organisation to envisage the future. It releases the immense creativity and resourcefulness that s normally hidden and very rarely tapped in each and every one f us. In doing so, it embraces people’s cacity for collaboration and change.


A typical AI experience follows a 5-stage process focussing on:

  1. Define. Identify the appreciative topic to focus and grow.

  2. Discover. The exploration of what works (or what has worked) well- the best of “what is”.

  3. Dream. The envisioning of what could work well in the future - the best of “What can be”.

  4. Design. Planning and prioritising what will actually work well in the future-find ways to move toward the shared dream.

  5. Deliver. The implementation of the proposed design,


    Appreciative Inquiry was originally based on the following 5 principles:

     Principles of Change

  1. Constructivist – Reality and the future are founded on our own construction, based on our context and fuelled by conversations


  1. Simultaneity – Change starts with the first question/inquiry.


  1. Anticipatory – People and organisations move in the direction of their visions and dreams


  1. Poetic – Organisations are like books, being co-authored at every moment. We have the choice of what we inquire into and freedom to choose what to focus on as we create a path to move forward.


  1. Positive – Choosing the positive as the focus of inquiry releases positive energy that I useful to drive and sustain the change we want to see.

 2. Solution Focus

  1. The Solution Focus approach to problem solving does not focus on problems or its root causes. Instead the conversation focuses on what’s wanted and moving toward that future. Here are the key assumptions that underpin solution focussed work:


Change is happening all the time. Our job is to identify and amplify useful change.

There is no one “right” way of looking at things: different views may fit the facts equally well.

Detailed understanding of the “problem” is usually of little help in arriving at the problem.

No “proble” happens all the time. The direct route lies in identifying what is going on when the problem does not happen.

Clues to the solution are often in front of us and we just need to recognise them

Small change in the right direction can be amplified to great effect.

It is important to stay “solution- focussed” and not “solution-forced.”


These principles are also captured in the SIMPLE framework by Paul Jackson and Mark McKergrow in their book The Solution Focus (2007).


Solutions not problems. Focus your work on the solutions not ont eh problems

In-between. Interactions is the platform for change. The action is in the interaction.

Make use of what is there. Find the strengths, resources and good intentions that are already there.

Possibilities. Many solutions are possible. Thery may come from past and present experiences or positive hope and expectations about the future.

Language. Use positive, clear and uncomplicated language.

Every case is different. Start afresh from here and now and find solutions that fit this case.

 3. Positive Deviance

Positive Deviance advocates that in every community or organisation there are a few individuals or groups who have overcome or prevented the problem we wish to solve. In the story the single mom who believed that the children will respond positively to a caring adult was the “positive deviance.”

The positive deviance process has 4 steps referred to as the 4Ds:

  1. Define the problem, current perceived causes, challenges, constraints, common practices and desired outcomes.

  2. Determine the presence of individuals or groups who form a positive deviant to the problem.

  3. Discover uncommon but successful behaviours and strategies through inquiry and observation.

  4. Design activities to allow community members to practice the discovered behaviours.

There are also 9 guiding principles:

The system (community or organisation) owns the entire process

All who are part of the problem are part of the solution. “Do not do anything about me without me!”

The system discovers existing uncommon, successful behaviours and strategies. (Positive Deviance Inquiry.)

The system, designs ways to practice and amplify success unleashing innovations from within.

Members of the system recognise that “someone just like me” can get results even in the worst situations (evidence from within).

Positive Deviance emphasises practice instead of knowledge. “You are more likely to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.”

The system creates its own benchmarks and monitors progress.

Positive Deviance is rooted in deep respect for members of the system and believes in the ability of the community to lead the change.

The Positive Deviance process expands existing networks and creates new ones.


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