Appreciative Inquiry

In 2001, I met an affable, soft-spoken professor at Case Western Reserve University who was well on his way to making the world a better place. David Cooperrider had pioneered a radically new approach to organizational development that he detailed in his doctoral dissertation at CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management in 1985. Together with his doctoral advisor, Suresh Srivastva, he is internationally recognized as the founder of the theory of Appreciative Inquiry.

Quite simply, he turned the traditional, negative industrial approach of looking at a business or an organization as having problems that needed to be fixed on its head. He discovered that considering an organization and its people as a place with strengths that need to be appreciated and leveraged leads to a far more positive, productive and sustainable approach.

Today, the Oak Park, Illinois, native is the Fairmount Minerals Chair and Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School. He also teaches at University of Pennsylvania as well as Claremont University, where he was named The Peter F. Drucker Distinguished Fellow, one of the highest honors in the field of management for his contributions to leadership, change management, and organization development. In November 2014, Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, opened The David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

AI methods have now been employed in more than 100 countries, and David has served as advisor to numerous senior executives in business and societal leadership roles. The list includes AI and strategy work with Apple, Kuerig Green Mountain Coffee, Smuckers, Price-Waterhouse, Wal-Mart, Fairmount Minerals, the US Navy, United Way, the Cleveland Clinic and with five Presidents and Nobel Laureates such as President William Jefferson Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and President Oscar Arias. 

Since meeting David to profile him for then CWRU magazine, I have spent a great deal of time with him at a variety of AI summits, including the 10-year initiative he launched with Mayor Frank G. Jackson in the fall of 2009: Sustainable Cleveland 2019. I have written case studies and articles about a number of his projects. Currently, I am focused on writing about a couple of national initiatives he is developing for improving education and creating a Grand Strategy for the US.

Most important, David and I are developing an idea for a book we will co-author about sustainable leadership using Appreciative Inquiry principles.

For additional information about David and AI, please check out his Wikipedia page:


David Cooperrider, founder of Appreciative Inquiry