Appreciative Inquiry (AI): David Cooperrider

Following the strengths-based leadership philosophy of Peter Drucker, Appreciative Inquiry says “the essential task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a systems’ weaknesses irrelevant.” It says that managing and leading change is ALL about strengths: elevating strengths, magnifying strengths, and creating new combinations and chemistries of strengths in ways that propel innovation.
Appreciative Inquiry—or “AI” for short-- has two radical but exciting premises. First, is says forget everything you learned in change management 101—organizations are not problems-to be-solved—and that all the deficit based change methods, from gap analysis to organizational diagnosis, are in fact creating an exhausting treadmill and barrier to real innovation. Appreciative inquiry turns the problem-solving habits of the field on their head, and shows that change is more powerful, energizing, and effective when we inquire into the true, the good, the better and the possible—everything that gives life to a system when is most alive and at its exceptional best. Do you really think one more survey into low morale is going to generate the energy and new vision of a company filled with people alive with passion and high commitment? AI theory says no: all the studies in the world of low morale will not tell us one thing about “high commitment work systems.” If we want to know how to create a high commitment work system we would be better off doing 100 interviews—a real study—of “high point moments” in people’s career in the organization, times when they were most committed and alive in their work and when they were going way beyond their job descriptions. So AI is about the discovery of life generating strengths and instead of SWOT it is built on an analytic model called SOAR, that is, the systematic study of signature strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results.


People often reveal their character in their approach to discussions. Four basic types can be identified, according to how people react to suggestions:

The Fault-finder: "The idea is good but...
The dictator: "No".
The school teacher: "No, the idea isn't good because..
The AI thinker: "Yes, and we could also..