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The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook, 2nd Edition by David L. Cooperrider, Diana Whitney, and Jacqueline M. Stavros

The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook, 2nd Edition

By David L. Cooperrider, Diana Whitney, and Jacqueline M. Stavros
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008

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4 stars: Thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating materialThis second edition of The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook serves as an extended theoretical, methodological summary of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology intended for practitioners. It is a valuable resource for anyone responsible for managing a team, department, or organization. The authors do an excellent job of balancing the pragmatic needs of the organization development (OD) practitioner with the theoretical, research-based underpinnings of AI. The book is divided into three parts: “Essential Elements of AI,” “Application of the 4-D cycle of AI,” and “Learning Applications and Resources.”

Part 1 is an extended introduction to the theory and philosophy of AI, which is an OD methodology that focuses on identifying and developing the “positive core,” or key strengths of an organization. The authors partially define AI as the “cooperative co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them.”

AI is distinct from other planning and intervention approaches in that it explicitly does not look for flaws or weaknesses that need to be addressed. Rather, based on the theory of social constructionism,[1] AI identifies and affirms the strengths and hopes of a human system and attempts to build a positive visual image of a preferred future state. According to the heliotropic hypothesis of cognition, human systems have an observable tendency to evolve and move in the direction of the best, brightest, and most positive images of a future state.[2] Thus, by identifying and affirming the positive core, AI practitioners facilitate progress toward the achievement of life-giving ends.

In Part 2, the authors review the process of AI, which is accomplished through a four-step series of actions composed of discovery, dream, design, and destiny (the 4-D Cycle).

  1. Discovery, the initial action of an AI intervention, is the search for “the best of what is” within an organization.
  2. Dreaming is when organizational members imagine what their organization could become.
  3. Design allows members to select organizational design elements that can support the future they dream of becoming.
  4. Destiny asks that organizational members declare their intended actions and build organization-wide support for the envisioned future.

Finally, Part 3 provides extensive resources for the AI practitioner, including sample interview guides and reports, worksheets, and case summaries. The book concludes with a collection of seminal, previously published AI-related articles.

In summary, The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook provides a thorough introduction to AI in theory and in practice. It is useful both as an introduction for the business manager and as an expert guide for the OD practitioner launching his first AI intervention.

[1] Mark Ashcraft. Fundamentals of Cognition, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997).

[2] Peter L. Berger, Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1967).

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