Fail Forward with Appreciative Inquiry on Teams

Appreciative Inquiry is a coaching framework that focuses on identifying and building on an individual’s strengths, positive experiences, and successes. It seeks to create positive change by exploring what works well (and doesn’t) and using that as a foundation to envision and design a desired future. The approach encourages a shift from problem-solving to appreciating and amplifying a person and team’s positive aspects, fostering motivation, engagement, and growth.

In the context of business failures, Fail Forward with Appreciative Inquiry on Teams depicts how the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) framework can be applied to promote collaboration within teams and foster a positive approach to learning from failure, mistakes, errors, and setbacks. Here’s how it be adapted: 

Discovery: Appreciating Mindset


listen, be curious, draw out narratives, listen and learn, and take notes on key points. 

Appreciating Mindset:

Emphasize adopting an appreciative approach to business successes and failures. 

Encourage team members to view failures as opportunities for growth and learning rather than as negative outcomes.

Values Related to Failure: 

The C.O.A.C.H.  P.R.I.M.A.L.  Acronym 

Curiosity: Being curious about failures and exploring the reasons behind them to gain insights for improvement.

Optimism: Maintaining a positive outlook and seeing failures as opportunities for growth and success.

Accountability: Taking ownership of mistakes and learning from them to avoid repeating them in the future.

Courage: Facing failures head-on and taking risks without fear of setbacks.

Humility: Recognizing failure is a natural part of learning and being humble enough to seek help and feedback.

Perseverance: Continuing to strive for success despite encountering failure along the way.

Resilience: Bouncing back from setbacks and learning from failure. Recognize and appreciate the team’s resilience and ability to adapt to challenges. Celebrate their commitment to overcoming failures and learning from them.

Innovation: Viewing failures as a stepping stone to innovation and finding new solutions.

Mindset (Growth): Embracing challenges and seeing failures as opportunities for learning and improvement rather than dwelling on blame or mistakes.

Adaptability: Being flexible and open to change when faced with failures or unexpected outcomes.

Learning Culture: Instill a culture of continuous learning within the team. Encourage regular reflections on experiences and failures to improve and refine strategies continuously.

Reflect on Past: Successes and Failures

Gary Klein’s work on postmortems centers around the concept of “After-Action Reviews” (AARs), a structured process for analyzing past events to improve future performance. Instead of focusing solely on what went wrong, AARs also emphasize understanding what went right and why, making them a valuable tool for learning and continuous improvement. 

AAR’s goal is to produce changes in team behavior.

By studying successes and failures, organizations can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their processes and capabilities, leading to better-informed decision-making and increased resilience.

Begin by reflecting on the team’s past successes and achievements. This sets a positive tone and reminds everyone of the capabilities and strengths they possess as a team.

AAR (After-Action Review) is a 4-part process:

  1. What did we expect to happen?
  2. What actually happened? 
  3. Why was there a difference between our expectations and reality?
  4. What can we change next time?

Identify Positive Aspects:

  • Collaborate with teams regarding business failures and encourage members to identify positive aspects and strengths based on lessons learned from the experience. 
  • What valuable insights did they gain? 

Design: Co-Constructing and Co-Creating

  • Co-creating through collaborative problem-solving for a sustainable preferred future. 
  • Foster an environment where ideas are freely shared and valued.
  • Team members work together to analyze the failure and brainstorm innovative solutions.
  • What will be needed to turn vision into reality? 
  • Create immediate, attainable goals and steps. 
  • Transform “We can’t do that” to “exploring what resources we need to accomplish that.” 
  • Design and imagine the outcome. 
  • What should it be moving forward?
  • What knowledge can be applied to future endeavors?

Envisioning:  Desired Future

  • Facilitate a dialogue where team members can collectively envision the desired future they wish to achieve. 
  • Creating a compelling and inspiring vision for the future based on real data and evidence. 
  • It involves using objective and verifiable information to shape the vision, ensuring it is grounded in reality and achievable.
  • How can they use the lessons from the failure to shape their future strategies and decisions?

Destiny: Innovating

  • Action steps. What will it be? How to empower, learn, adjust, improvise. Empower and sustain transformation.  
  • We will (action steps) __________ we will let you know we did it by email, phone, or text by (date)______.


In the context of business failures, Fail Forward with Appreciative Inquiry (AI), the (AI) framework can be applied to promote collaboration within teams and foster a positive approach to learning from failure, mistakes, errors, and setbacks.

Meet Jodie, your Culture & Transformation Captain. With over twenty years helping people change, facilitating team discussions, building cultures, designing, implementing and teaching classes, your organization is in good hands.