David L. Cooperrider Biographical Overview
David Cooperrider is the co-creator and creative thought leader of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). His ground-breaking work has led countless businesses, organizations and even religious leaders to understand how to consider a whole system and all its parts in order to develop strengths-based, solution-focused management philosophies that work.
While reading an anthology on the philosophy of art that made a distinction between communities of inquiry (science) and communities of appreciation (art), he wondered: "Why should these be separate?" This insight became useful while he was doing organizational consulting at the Cleveland Clinic medical center. Based on his work with his mentor, Dr. Suresh Srivastva, and Frank Barrett, a fellow doctoral student in Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, David gave a presentation on the egalitarian organization at the 1985 Organization Development Network Conference, proposing that the problem-solving processes exacerbated the very problems they were supposed to solve, and instead such processes should focus organizations' attention on the "life-giving properties" of their social systems.
There has been a growing use of AI around the world thanks in part to the countless successful applications David has done with businesses and other organizations. For example, working with the Dalai Lama and other religious leaders around the world, David helped launch the United Religions Initiative though a five-year global AI process.
In the halls of the United Nations, David helped design and lead an AI Summit to launch the UN Global Compact in 2004. After a powerful gathering that brought business leaders together with non-profit and government leaders from around the world, then-Secretary General, Kofi Annan, wrote to David saying, "I would like to commend you for your innovative methodology of Appreciative Inquiry and to thank you for introducing it to the United Nations. Without this, it would have been very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to constructively engage so many leaders of business, civil society, and government."
Acceptance Through Success
The skepticism David initially faced has dissipated as success has been shown through businesses’ and other organizations’ use of AI. One admirer of the process is Admiral Vernon Clark, the Chief of Naval Operations of the Navy, who brought AI into the Navy for a multiyear project on “Bold and Enlightened Naval Leadership.” Through the large-group method, AI helped to transform the human resources practices of the Navy.
Clark was concerned about the high turnover rates in the Navy, which cost America billions of dollars. He said, "We need a new model, we need a model where people are called to be leaders at every level, where there´s a chance for strong training in human development, a chance for being part of the decision making, a chance to be part of the strategic thinking of the organization."
David and a colleague did a test with AI with over 300 people, from admirals to E-5 sailors to internal stakeholders to the Navy and external participants, including some marines. According to David, “It was very, very exciting. The U.S. Navy has now used the Appreciative Inquiry tools and summit method to develop leaders at every level, and the idea is that everyone can be part of the inner circle of strategy, that we have the methods and capabilities to bring all the strengths of the whole system into the room. It´s really an exciting way to work.”
David has served as an advisor to senior executives in business and societal leadership roles, including projects with five U.S. presidents and Nobel laureates. David has been a consultant and advisor to businesses and organizations including the Boeing Corporation, Keurig Green Mountain, McKinsey, Sherwin Williams, Verizon and Wal-Mart, as well as the American Red Cross, American Hospital Association, Cleveland Clinic, World Vision, United Way of America and the U.S. Navy.
The United Nations asked David in 2004 to facilitate a summit on global corporate citizenship between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and 500 business leaders, and he later gave a TEDx talk at the U.N. His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked David to organize a dialogue among the world’s top religious leaders, which was arranged in conjunction with President Jimmy Carter and has led to the United Religions Initiative. In 2007, David helped found the International Positive Psychology Association and currently serves on the board.
Dr. David L. Cooperrider is the:
- Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreneurship at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University
- Faculty Director of the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case Western Reserve
- Past President of the Academy of Management’s OD Division and has lectured and taught at Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, MIT, University of Michigan and University of Cambridge
- Third Peter F. Drucker Distinguished Fellow for the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, named in 2010