Appreciation (Situational)

Understanding the Full Implications of a Fact


Squeeze out as much information as you can, by appreciating the situation accurately.

© iStockphoto/only_fabrizio

A few months ago, Josh found out that a competitor was opening a new office in the same city as his organization. 

He gave some thought to the implications of this, but, even after he'd covered all of the bases, he still felt that he was missing something important. Then, two months later, he discovered that the competitor had been headhunting all his best managers. And there was nothing he could do about it.

Does this sound familiar? Sometimes, a piece of information may seem straightforward, but later on, we find out there was more to it than we realized, leaving us wrong-footed and ill-prepared for the consequences.

One way to deal with these situations is by using Appreciation. This is a simple but powerful technique for extracting the maximum amount of information possible from a simple fact or statement.

About Appreciation

Appreciation helps us uncover factors that we might have ordinarily missed, and it can be very useful for brainstorming   solutions to problems.

It was originally developed by the military to help commanders gain a comprehensive understanding of any fact, problem or situation that it was faced with in battle. However, you can also apply it in the workplace.

Using Appreciation is easy. Starting with a fact, you first ask the question "So what?" – in other words, what are the implications of that fact? Why is this fact important?

You then continue asking that question until you have drawn all possible conclusions from it.


Appreciation is similar to the 5 Whys   technique. The major difference is that it is often used to get the most information out of a simple fact or statement, while the 5 Whys is specifically designed to drill down to the root of a problem.

You can also use Appreciation in conjunction with Root Cause Analysis   or Cause and Effect Analysis   to help you gain a better understanding of the impact of possible solutions.


Bear in mind that Appreciation can restrict you to one line of thinking. For instance, once you've answered your first "So what?" question, you might follow a single line of inquiry to its conclusion. To avoid this, repeat the Appreciation process several times over to make sure that you've covered all bases.

Appreciation Example

You've just found out that your department's budget is going to be cut by 25 percent next year.

This is a huge cut, and you want to make sure that you've uncovered all the implications before you start to brainstorm possible solutions.

So, you use the Appreciation Process, as follows:

Statement: Our department's budget is going to be cut 25 percent starting January 1.

So what?

So the only way to accommodate that cut is to reduce our spending dramatically.

So what?

So we're probably going to have to cut staff, and we'll definitely have to cut spending on supplies, research, and staff parties.

So what?

So staff morale is probably going to drop, especially if I have to lay off members of our team.

So what?

So I'll need to come up with plenty of low-cost ways to boost morale without spending money.

So what?

So I'll need to start thinking about this tomorrow, since the new budget will go into effect in two months, and I want to be able to manage the consequences when I let the team know.

Key Points

Appreciation was originally developed by the military to give leaders a better understanding of a fact, statement or problem that they were faced with.

You use Appreciation by asking "So what?" repeatedly. This helps you to extract all important information implied by a fact.

Consider using other problem solving techniques with Appreciation, to make sure that you're not limited to one line of thinking.


If you'd like to gain an in-depth understanding of your current problem solving skills, take our How Good Is Your Problem Solving?   quiz. You might also want to go through our Bite-Sized Training Session on Problem Solving.

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Comments (13)
  • Midgie wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Ernesttan1976,
    Thanks for your thoughts. My view is that the word 'Appreciation' is simply a simply term which is used for the technique of further exploration.

    This is similar to a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique that I have used whereby I repeat the same question 'And what does that mean for you?' or 'And what else?' to encourage a client to explore further.

    Have you used this or other techniques to explore a situation further? How did they go and what sorts of questions did you use?

  • ernesttan1976 wrote Over a month ago
    "Appreciation" is not a good word to use. It has little meaning. Too passive and vague.

    How To Cover All The Bases / How to Plan Thoroughly

    The idiom cover all the bases means (1) to prepare for every possibility, (2) to give attention to every aspect of a situation or problem, or (3) to inform (someone) of all matters at hand.
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Yes, I think it is a great question for "self talk" and agree you have to be careful in how it comes across when asking others. The delivery is very important!

  • jukeboxhero wrote Over a month ago
    I have not used "So what" yet. I use open ended questions a lot, but I do feel the urge to say "So what?" a lot...but not as part of any meaningful inquiry. I say it to myself when developing ideas though. It is one of the most straightforward questions one can ask. I think I ought to be careful with the "5 so whats", as tempting as it is - I am the gravel beneath the totem pole.
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Glad you liked it! Have you been able to use it?

  • jukeboxhero wrote Over a month ago
    What a great twist on 5Ys!
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Great tip! Here's a quick link to our SWOT articles for people who are interested in using the techniques together like this:

    SWOT Analysis: ... TMC_05.php
    Personal SWOT: ... C_05_1.php

    We also have a Bite Sized Training session for Personal SWOT: ... alSWOT.php

    Enjoy - and let us know your tips and experiences!

  • maryd wrote Over a month ago
    I find this technique very useful and often use it in conjunction with the SWOT analysis - the two are easy to remember together as SWOT - So What? This helps people to move on from simply identifying a strength or threat etc to a deeper analysis of its implications.
  • bigk wrote Over a month ago

    I agree that more open questions are very useful.

    I like Michael's additions.
    So what? to me is also
    What are the consequences of this?
    What effect will this have?
    What will happen next?
    what do we need to do?

    I would be inclined to make the questions time bound and also look at;
    (What) now,
    (What) next,
    (What) future,

    in each question based on;
    What are the implications for current and future actions or decisions.

  • MichaelP wrote Over a month ago
    We can never ask enough open questions tks for the reminder.

    So what? to me is also
    What are the consequences of this?
    What effect will this have?
    What will happen next?
    what do we need to do?

    In an adapted version of this principal - Appreciate Inquiry - by focusing the questions on what we do well, and what can we do more of to continual improve positive, change can be incited as a step beyond just a deeper understanding of the situation.

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