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A Contemporary Commentary on Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational LifeAppreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life
Cooperrider, D. and Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In R. Woodman and W. Pasmore (Eds.),
Research in organizational change and development, Vol. 1, pp. 129–169.
Cooperrider, D. and Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In R. Woodman and W. Pasmore (Eds.),
It’s been nearly 30 years since the original articulation of Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life was written in collaboration with my remarkable mentor Suresh…
It’s been nearly 30 years since the original articulation of Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life was written in collaboration with my remarkable mentor Suresh Srivastva (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987). That article generated more experimentation in the field, more academic excitement, and more innovation than anything we had ever written. As the passage of time has enabled me to look more closely at what was written, I feel both a deep satisfaction with the seed vision and scholarly logic offered for Appreciative Inquiry (AI), as well as well as the enormous impact and reverberation. Following the tradition of authors such as Carl Rogers who have re-issued their favorite works but have also added brief reflections on key points of emphasis, clarification, or editorial commentary we have decided to issue a reprint the early article by David L. Cooperrider and the late Suresh Srivastva in its entirety, but also with contemporary comments embedded. To be sure the comments offered are brief and serve principally to add points of emphasis to ideas we may have too hurriedly introduced. My comments – placed in indented format along the way – are focused on the content and themes of furthermost relevance to this volume on organizational generativity. In many ways I’ve begun to question today whether there can even be inquiry where there is no appreciation, valuing, or amazement – what the Greeks called thaumazein – the borderline between wonderment and admiration. One learning is that AI’s generativity is not about its methods or tools, but about our cooperative capacity to reunite seeming opposites such as theory as practice, the secular as sacred, and generativity as something beyond positivity or negativity. Appreciation is about valuing the life-giving in ways that serve to inspire our co-constructed future. Inquiry is the experience of mystery, moving beyond the edge of the known to the unknown, which then changes our lives. Taken together, where appreciation and inquiry are wonderfully entangled, we experience knowledge alive and an ever-expansive inauguration of our world to new possibilities.
This article presents a conceptual refiguration of action-research based on a “sociorationalist” view of science. The position that is developed can be summarized as follows: For action-research to reach its potential as a vehicle for social innovation it needs to begin advancing theoretical knowledge of consequence; that good theory may be one of the best means human beings have for affecting change in a postindustrial world; that the discipline's steadfast commitment to a problem solving view of the world acts as a primary constraint on its imagination and contribution to knowledge; that appreciative inquiry represents a viable complement to conventional forms of action-research; and finally, that through our assumptions and choice of method we largely create the world we later discover.
The emergence of strengths-based management may be the management innovation of our time. Nearly every organization has been introduced to its precepts – for example, the…
The emergence of strengths-based management may be the management innovation of our time. Nearly every organization has been introduced to its precepts – for example, the insight that a person or organization will excel only by amplifying strengths, never by simply fixing weaknesses. But in spite of impressive returns, organizations and managers have almost all stopped short of the breakthroughs that are possible. With micro tools largely in place, the future of strengths management is moving increasingly to the macro-management level, as witnessed in the rapid and far-reaching use of large group methods such as the Appreciative Inquiry Summit and its next generation design-thinking summit. Macro means whole and, by definition, unites many improbable opposites – for example, it embraces top down and bottom up simultaneously. It is a prime time source of organizational generativity. But the rules of macro-management are different than any other kind, most certainly micro-management. A decade of research and successful prototyping with single organizations, regions and cities, extended enterprises, industries, and UN-level world summits reveals five “X” factors – a specific set of mutually reinforcing elements of success and organizational generativity – and provides a clear set of guidelines for when and how you can deploy the “whole system in the room” design summit to bring out the best in system collaboration. By analyzing the performance and impacts of six case studies of the “whole system in the room” Appreciative Inquiry design summit, this chapter provides a bird’s eye view of the opportunities, challenges, and exciting new vistas opening up in this the collaborative age – a time when systemic action and macro-management skill are the primary leverage points for game-changing innovation, scalable solutions, and generative organizing. The chapter concludes with a call for more research into the stages of large group dynamics and advances a metaphor from the leadership literature – the spark, the flame, and the torch – to give imagery to the “positive contagion” and “the concentration effect of strengths” that happens during an Appreciative Inquiry Summit where 100s and sometimes 1000s come together interactively and collaboratively to design the future.
Sustainability issues such as energy security, air quality, climate change, and poverty are introducing greater levels of complexity into strategic decision-making and…
Sustainability issues such as energy security, air quality, climate change, and poverty are introducing greater levels of complexity into strategic decision-making and often have far-reaching implications for companies in today's competitive environment. Building on Appreciative Inquiry, this paper discusses a new model for sustainable value creation, based on the growing business opportunity to do well by doing good.
Appreciative Inquiry is a constructive inquiry process that searches for everything that “gives life” to organizations, communities, and larger human systems when they are…
Appreciative Inquiry is a constructive inquiry process that searches for everything that “gives life” to organizations, communities, and larger human systems when they are most alive, effective, creative and healthy in their interconnected ecology of relationships. To appreciate, quite simply, means to value and to recognize that which has value – it is a way of knowing and valuing the best in life. In the language of Positive Organizational Scholarship it means a research focus – a positive bias – seeking fresh understanding of dynamics described by words like excellence, thriving, abundance, resilience, or exceptional and life-giving (Cameron, Dutton & Quinn, 2003). In this context the word appreciate means to value those things of value – it is a mode of knowing often connected to the idea of esthetic appreciation in the arts. To appreciate also means to be grateful or thankful for – it is a way of being and maintaining a positive stance along the path of life’s journey. And not incidentally, to appreciate is to increase in value too. Combining the three – appreciation as a way of knowing, as a way of being and as an increase in value- suggests that Appreciative Inquiry is simultaneously a life-centric form of study and a constructive mode of practice. As a form of study, Appreciative Inquiry focuses on searching systematically for those capacities and processes that give life and strength and possibility to a living system; and as a constructive mode of practice, it aims at designing and crafting human organizations through a process in which valuing and creating are viewed as one, and where inquiry and change are powerfully related and understood as a seamless and integral whole. But the key to really understanding Appreciative Inquiry is to put the emphasis on the second word in the inseparable pair. While many are intrigued with the Appreciative Inquiry positive bias – toward the good, the better, the exceptional, and the possible – it is the power of inquiry we must learn more about and underscore. Inquiry is all about openness, curiosity, creative questioning; its spirit involves what Whitehead once called “the adventure of ideas.”
In this volume of Advances in Appreciative Inquiry, leading scholars from the fields of management, organization development, information technology, and education come…
In this volume of Advances in Appreciative Inquiry, leading scholars from the fields of management, organization development, information technology, and education come together to chart new directions in Appreciative Inquiry theory and research as well as new intervention practices and opportunities for design in organizations. While diverse in topic and discipline, each of the following original chapters treats the reader to a view of Appreciative Inquiry's revolutionary way of approaching familiar questions of management, organization design, and sustainability.
We provide seven steps to integrating sustainability into strategy and operations. The process is designed to enable business leaders to reframe sustainability as a source…
We provide seven steps to integrating sustainability into strategy and operations. The process is designed to enable business leaders to reframe sustainability as a source of value creation using a life cycle collaborative approach to innovation instead of piecemeal change led by small groups of experts. Furthermore, the approach builds on the strengths of whole business systems rather than attempting to fix the weaknesses of individual actors as is typical of many strategy execution efforts. The chapter begins with a survey of perceptions about the meaning of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The survey shows both significant confusion about the concepts themselves, and an opportunity for first movers to differentiate themselves by adopting an approach to sustainability based on innovation and business value. The seven steps are then presented using a strength-based whole system approach to compress the time and resources required to achieve the desired results.
Transformative innovation is a particular manifestation of generativity that emerges when organizations explore the intersection of business and society, embracing social…
Transformative innovation is a particular manifestation of generativity that emerges when organizations explore the intersection of business and society, embracing social, environmental, ethical, or similar initiatives as an integral part of their strategic missions. The chapter reports findings from the World Inquiry, a search for stories of transformative innovation. The stories illustrate how transformative innovation may (1) extend mutually beneficial outcomes of activity to business and society, (2) increase the scale of enacted human strengths, and (3) invoke a deep shift in values, assumptions, and behaviors that guide an organization. The exploration of transformative inquiry demonstrates how generativity emerges when business strategies integrate the interests of multiple stakeholders.
Appreciative Inquiry is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-enriched world around them. In its broadest focus, “AI” involves systematic discovery of everything that gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, effective and flourishing, and most capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a very central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system's capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of whole system appreciation through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people.
From Michael Porter (Porter & Kramer, 2006) to Glamour magazine (Sole-Smith, 2009), many are advocating alignment of social benefit and competitive advantage. As natural…
From Michael Porter (Porter & Kramer, 2006) to Glamour magazine (Sole-Smith, 2009), many are advocating alignment of social benefit and competitive advantage. As natural resources continue to decline and social expectations of business continue to grow, it is no surprise that many companies are jumping on the bandwagon on its way to a promising destination of mutual benefits for business and society. Yet, most businesses fail to capitalize on this opportunity for a simple reason: it is easy to get excited, but it is hard to make it work.
The chapter builds on the practices of companies throughout the world that have figured out how to harvest profits at the intersection of business and society, thus creating a whole new value for shareholders and a broad range of stakeholders. Specific practices are described as essential for the creation of this win–win for shareholders and stakeholders, including understanding the value shift emerging throughout economies and continents; discovering and designing opportunities to achieve existing business goals with new socially and ecologically sound strategies; and engaging passions, values, and appreciative capacities of the whole organization for higher returns.