Appreciative Inquiry

The term Appreciative Inquiry was created in 1986 by David L Cooperrider in his doctoral thesis: 'Appreciative Inquiry: Toward a Methodology for Utilising and Enhancing Organizational Innovation.' He developed the methodology with a team of colleagues including Suresh Srivastva and Diana Whitney, and, having gained his doctorate at Case Western University, is now associate professor of organizational behavior at the university's Weatherhead School of Management.

Cefinitions of Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives a system "life" when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system's capacity to heighten positive potential. It mobilizes inquiry through crafting an "unconditional positive question" often involving hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. In AI, intervention gives way to imagination and innovation; instead of negative, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis there is discovery, dream, and design. AI assumes that every living system has untapped, rich, and inspiring accounts of the positive. Link this "positive change core" directly to any change agenda, and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.

David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney
Taken from Appreciative Inquiry, part of the Collaborating for Change series
Edited by Peggy Holman and Tom Devane
Published by
Berrett-Koehler Communications

Appreciative Inquiry is built around a unique and proven approach to accelerate positive organisational change by focusing on core strengths of the organisation --Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management

Appreciative Inquiry is a theory and practice for approaching change from a holistic framework. Based on the belief that human systems are made and imagined by those who live and work within them, AI leads systems to move toward the generative and creative images that reside in their most positive core - their values, visions, achievements and best practices. --Jane Magruder Watkins and Bernard J Mohr, in their book Appreciative Inquiry

The Appreciative Inquiry Cycle




What is the focus of our inquiry?

Defining the focus of the Inquiry

Members of the core team (consisting of members of key stakeholder groups) define the focus of the inquiry


What gives life?

Interviewing of all by all

People hold one-to-one conversations to identify life-giving forces


What might be ?

Creating shared images from the interview narratives, ñ the common themes expressed as provocative propositions

People identify the themes that appear in the stories


What should be?

Creation of blueprints for change: the social and technical systems needed to realise the dream

People create shared images of their preferred future


How can we realise the dream?

Working together to implement the design

People find innovative ways to bring the preferred future to life


AI Commons is a worldwide portal devoted to the fullest sharing of academic resources and practical tools on Appreciative Inquiry and the rapidly growing discipline of positive change. This site is a resource for leaders of change, scholars, students, and business managers, and is hosted by Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management.

Anne Radford, editor of the Ai email publication (see below) and convenor of Ai Dialogues

Appreciative Inquiry Newsletter (quarterly)

To subscribe, go to 'subscribe' in the Welcome letter on and pay for your subscription using a credit card.

The Taos Institute, Taos, New Mexico, USA (Diana Whitney and colleagues)

Appreciative Inquiry and The Quest, hosted by Philanthropic Quest International

AI reading list:

Appreciative Inquiry Discussion List

AIList is a forum for individuals interested in learning more about the practice of Appreciative Inquiry. The list has nearly 800 subscribers from all over the world. Questions are welcome, as are case postings, observations, and other experiences that can help all list subscribers improve their organisation change practice.

To join the list, please go to:

This page courtesy of  Martin Leith