About Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry turns the old idea of organizational change on its head.

Appreciative Inquiry Focuses on Four Fundamental Ideas

Impactful Questions
Ask generative questions that lead to discussions about more of what you want, not long conversations about what isn’t working.

Inspiring Images
Images inspire action – so take the time to co-create an inspiring picture of where you are going.

Many Voices
Involve the whole system of stakeholders to go farther faster with more buy in.

Building on Successes
Look to past and existing strengths and successes to build capacity and confidence.

Appreciative Inquiry is a positive, strengths-based approach to leadership development and organizational change. It combines the science of change management with the science of positive psychology to help organizations manage change with excitement and with commitment.

Traditionally, when organizations wanted to improve their performance, they would look at what is NOT working. They would identify problems, analyze the causes, and come up with solutions. This tended to turn organizations into problems that needed to be solved, zapping energy, motivation, and good will from employees, the very qualities organizations need in their people.

Appreciative Inquiry turns that model on its head. Instead, we ask:

  • What is working?
  • What are we doing well?
  • What are the root causes of our success?
  • What makes us proud of our work?
  • How can we have better days?

This works because people want to engage in conversations about success. When sharing stories about what works, people gain confidence in their ability to deliver. Potential changes are based on their experiences, not someone else’s best practices. Involving lots of people in these discussions rapidly elevates capacity and innovative ideas by getting cross functional teams to talk directly with one another. Moreover, generating a positive image of what could be in the future inspires and changes our behavior in the present. By focusing on what you want MORE of, people will naturally move TOWARD that vision.

Appreciative Inquiry has been used successfully with organizations like: Apple, Johnson and Johnson, Green Mountain Coffee, Coca Cola, The UN, The United Way, The City of Cleveland, the National Dairy Council, and U.S. Navy and more. Rather than a prescriptive technique, Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy that can be used in team leadership, one-on-one interactions, and for organizational development. It will teach you how to ask more generative questions, how to inclusively involve an entire system of stakeholders, how to map strengths and success to build capacity and confidence, and how to align around a positive vision of the future. We invite you to learn more and stay connected to the Cooperrider Center.

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To read more in depth about Appreciative Inquiry in practice, check out our case studies, articles, and resources

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David L. Cooperrider & The Beginning of Appreciative Inquiry

David Cooperrider, PhD, holds the title of “Distinguished University Professor” and is the Fairmount Santrol- David L. Cooperrider Professor of Appreciative Inquiry at Case Western Reserve University, where he is the faculty founder of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. David is best known for his original theoretical articulation of “AI” or Appreciative Inquiry with his mentor Suresh Srivastva. Today AI’s approach to strengths-inspired, instead of problematizing change, is being practiced everywhere: the corporate world, the world of public service, of economics, of education, of faith, of philanthropy, and social science scholarship-it is affecting them all. Jane Nelson, at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Leadership recently wrote, “David Cooperrider is one of the outstanding scholar-practitioners of our generation.”

David Cooperrider

David has served as advisor to prominent leaders in business and society, including projects with five Presidents and/or Nobel Laureates such as William Jefferson Clinton, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kofi Annan, and Jimmy Carter. David advises a wide variety of corporations including Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Verizon, Hunter Douglas, Cleveland Clinic, National Grid, Smuckers, Clarke, Fairmount Minerals, McKinsey, Parker, Dealer Tire, and Wal-Mart as well as the Navy, Red Cross, United Way of America, and the United Nations. David is also a founding Board Member of the Taos Institute and the International Association of Positive Psychology. David has published 25 books and authored over 100 articles and book chapters.

David is an amazing thought leader and his gentle and powerful style of leadership throughout the Appreciative Inquiry process is one that moves people and worlds to better understanding and creative decisions. David not only “leads” people in this process, he inspires people to come together in the AI approach when the participants may be extremely far apart in their thinking at the onset of discussion.
Roberta Lang, Global Vice President of Legal Affairs, Whole Foods Market

He has served as editor of both the Journal of Corporate Citizenship with Ron Fry and the current academic research 4-volume series on Advances for Appreciative Inquiry, with Michel Avital. In 2010 David was honored with the Peter F. Drucker Distinguished Fellow award. David’s books include Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change (with Diana Whitney); The Organization Dimensions of Global Change (with Jane Dutton); Organizational Courage and Executive Wisdom (with Suresh Srivastva); and The Strengths-based Leadership Handbook (with Brun & Ejsing.) David’s work has received many of awards including Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning by ASTD; the Porter Award for Best writing in the field of Organization Development and the Aspen Institute Faculty Pioneer Award. In 2016 David was named as one of the nation’s top thought leaders by Trust Across America, and honored as one of “AACSB’s Most Influential Leaders.” In the highest recognition, Champlain College’s Stiller School of Business honored David’s impact with an academic center in his name. Opened in 2014 it is called the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry, and David serves as its Honorary Chair and Professor Lindsey Godwin is the Faculty Director. For the center’s dedication Professor Martin Seligman, the father of the positive psychology movement wrote: “David Cooperrider is a giant: a giant of discovery, a giant of dissemination, and a giant of generosity.” Likewise Jane Dutton, former President of the Academy of Management said, “David Cooperrider is changing the world with his ideas and who he is as a person. There are few who combine such insight, inspiration and energy.”

AI is one of those rare grounded and practical frameworks that can change one’s perspective of what is possible. It provides a process for channeling the amorphous energy of social constructionism into coherent and inspirational visions and actions.
Investor Relations Manager, Sunrise Management Services LLC, Burlington, VT

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