The tacit mental models of many research and development institutions dedicated to sustainable rural development is that they exist to solve development problems. This has led to a diagnostic and often reactive problem-solving mode of action, and to a culture of trouble-shooting experts who develop solutions. When practiced exclusively, the problem-solving mode is self-limiting because the energy that could create something new is diverted to preventing or containing something undesirable. Negative visions carry a message of powerlessness, and they are short term – once the perceived problem or threat changes, the energy and vision dissipates. Troubleshooting approaches are slow because they ask people to look backwards to yesterday’s causes. They generate defensiveness and have a propensity to reinforce hierarchies and the social distance created by power differences. The self-limiting characteristics of the problem-solving mode may be ameliorated by complementing it with positive, vision-oriented approaches. One such approach, called Appreciative Inquiry,evolved in the field of Organizational Development as a response to percieved limitations of participatory action research as an engine of change. The relevance of Appreciative Inquiry to agriculture, natural resource management and rural development is described.