· A strategy for intentional change that identifies the best of “what is” to pursue dreams and possibilities of “what could be”; a cooperative search for the strengths, passions and life-giving forces that are found within every system and that hold potential for inspired, positive change.
· A process of collaborative inquiry, based on interviews and affirmative questioning, that collects and celebrates “good news stories” of a community; these stories serve to enhance cultural identity, spirit and vision.
· A way of seeing which is selectively attentive to — and affirming of — the best and highest qualities in a system, a situation, or another human being;
an appreciation for the “mystery of being” and a “reverence for life.”
(phrases from Cooperrider and Srivastva, 1987)
· Mission Statement/Vision Development
· Strategic Planning
· Organizational/System Redesign
· Process & Service Enhancement
· Improvement Initiatives
· Group Culture Change
· Civic/Community Development
· Umbrella for Multiple Change Initiatives in a System
Conditions for Use
Identified need or desire for:
– Heart-felt inquiry, discovery & renewal
– Positive, grass-roots revolution
Systems & situations in which there is (are):
– Support for full voice participation at all levels
– Commitment to change as an ongoing process, not a one-time event
– Leadership belief in the positive core and affirmative process as a viable change driver
– Structures/resources to encourage sharing of “good news stories”
and to support creative action
Situations in which:
– Predictable, linear process & outcomes are required
– Problem-identification/problem-solving is the preferred method for change
– There is lack of support for passionate dreaming & inspired self-initiative
· Change in basic orientation from problem-focused to possibility-focused
· Clarified or enhanced sense of identity, shared values & culture
· Established climate of continual learning & inquiry
· Renewal of group energy, hope, motivation & commitment
· Increase in curiosity, wonder and “reverence for life”
· Whole system changes in culture & language (increase in cooperative practices & decrease in competition; increased ratio of positive: negative comments; increase in affirmative questions and/or narrative-rich communication)
· Improved working relations/conflict resolution
· Decrease in hierarchical decision-making; increase in egalitarian practices & self-initiated action
· Successful achievement of intents listed above (see “Potential Uses”);
Key Principles & Assumptions
Four Guiding Principles:
1. Every system works to some degree; seek out the positive, life-giving forces and appreciate the “best of what is.”
2. Knowledge generated by the inquiry should be applicable; look at what is possible & relevant.
3. Systems are capable of becoming more than they are, and they can learn how to guide their own evolution — so consider provocative challenges & bold dreams of “what might be.”
4. The process & outcome of the inquiry are interrelated and inseparable, so make the process a collaborative one.
About Reality. . .
· We co-create reality through our language, thoughts, images and beliefs
· The act of asking a question influences the system’s reality in some way
(i.e. questions are a form of intervention).
· The types of questions we ask determine the types of answers we receive; and “the seeds of change are implicit in the very first questions we ask.”
· We manifest what we focus on, and we “grow toward what we persistently ask questions about.” (both quotes from Cooperrider & Whitney, 1999)
Key Principles & Assumptions, cont.
About Problem-Solving. . .
· AI is distinctly different from problem-solving: AI focuses on a desired future or outcome, built on strengths/passions of the past and present.
· Problem-solving attempts to analyze deficits, identify root causes, then fix problems or correct errors; because it searches for problems, it finds them.
· AI doesn’t ignore problems — it recognizes them as a desire for something else, then works to identify & enhance the “something else.”
Constructionist Principle: we construct realities based on our previous experience, so our knowledge and the destiny of the system are interwoven.
Principle of Simultaneity: inquiry and change are simultaneous.
Poetic Principle: the story of the system is constantly being co-authored, and it is open to infinite interpretations.
Anticipatory Principle: what we anticipate determines what we find.
Positive Principle: as an image of reality is enhanced, actions begin to align with the positive image.
Other related research/theory:
Sports psychology re: visualization; educational research re: Pygmalion effect; medical research re: mind/body health, placebo effect, etc.; spiritual practices of meditation and visualization.
· Story, metaphor, image, and dialogue are powerful change agents.
· AI reveals common ground (shared values & dreams).
· AI reveals higher ground (the most compelling, desirable possibilities).
· Affirmative competence (ability to recognize & affirm the positive) is a skill that can be practiced and learned.
& Types of
“Everyone” who is within the system or touched by it in some way;
those who hold images and have stories about the system
20 – 2000 or more, involved in interviews, meetings and collaborative actions
AI Summit: large scale meeting that “gets the whole system into the room;”
lasting 1 – 6 days
Non-conference Design: interviews and dialogue that spread “web-like” throughout
the system; timeframe indefinite
Steps of Implementation
The process usually takes participants through the stages of
The 4-D Cycle: Discovery — Appreciating & Valuing the Best of “What Is”
Dream — Envisioning “What Might Be”
Design — Dialoguing “What Should Be”
Destiny — Innovating “What Will Be”
AI Principles are adapted and customized to each individual situation; the
Full AI process typically includes:
1. Selecting a focus area or topic(s) of interest
2. Interviews designed to discover strengths, passions, unique attributes
3. Identifying patterns, themes and/or intriguing possibilities
4. Creating bold statements of ideal possibilities (“Provocative Propositions”)
5. Co-determining “what should be” (consensus re: principles & priorities)
6. Taking/sustaining action
Creator(s) & Creation Date
David Cooperrider, Suresh Srivastva in 1987
with colleagues from Case Western University & Taos Institute
References Used for this
Cooperrider, David L. & Srivastva, Suresh (1987). “Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational
Life.” In Pasmore,W. & Woodman, R. (Eds.), Research in Organizational Change and
Development, Vol. 1, p. 129-169. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Cooperrider, David L. & Whitney, Diana (1999). Appreciative Inquiry. In Holman, P.& Devane,
T. (Eds.), Collaborating for Change. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Hammond, Sue Annis (1998, 2nd edition). The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry. Plano, TX:
The Thin Book Publishing Co.
Holman, Peggy & Devane, Tom (Eds., 1999). The Change Handbook – Group Methods for
Shaping the Future. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Kelm, Jackie (1998). “Introducing the AI Philosophy.” from Hammond, Sue Annis & Royal,
Cathy (Eds., 1998). Lessons From the Field: Applying Appreciative Inquiry. (p. 161-172).
Plano, TX: Practical Press Inc.
Pinto, Michael and Curran, Mary. (1998) “Laguna Beach Education Foundation, Schoolpower.”
from Hammond, Sue Annis & Royal, Cathy (Eds., 1998). Lessons From the Field:
Applying Appreciative Inquiry. (p. 16 -47). Plano, TX: Practical Press Inc.
Whitney, Diana & Cooperrider, David L. (Summer, 1998). “The Appreciative Inquiry Summit:
Overview and Applications.” Employment Relations Today, p. 17-28.