12 Best Books on Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry BooksJust like positive psychology, appreciative inquiry is a theory and method for organizational and personal development that focuses on strengths rather than deficits.

It seeks to identify and amplify positive features and behaviors in organizations or individuals to foster growth.

As a systemic approach, it aims to stimulate change and learning at all levels. It pays very close attention to the kinds of questions we ask and the language we use to stimulate change, for it rests on the constructivist assumption that our language and concepts shape our expectations and realities.

Because it is highly collaborative and cocreative in spirit, we thought to share with you some of the best appreciative inquiry books. While this is not an exhaustive list, we have highlighted, summarized, and reviewed 12 books and hope you find this resource to be helpful.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Strengths Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help your clients realize their unique potential and create a life that feels energizing and authentic.

What Is Appreciative Inquiry? A Quick Recap

Appreciative inquiry was developed by researchers David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in 1987. It is grounded in the principles of organizational development, action research, and social constructivism.

Since its beginnings, it has grown into a global network of researchers and practitioners who use the theories, processes, and methods of appreciative inquiry to facilitate personal, organizational, and wider social change (Cooperrider et al., 2008).

Cooperrider et al. (2008, p. 5) write that appreciative inquiry [AI] is based on the assumption “that organizations, like individuals, are capable of learning and growing in positive ways. AI seeks to engage members at all levels of the organization in a co-evolutionary process of inquiry into organizational life, with the goal of identifying, enhancing, and aligning the organization’s strengths and its capacity for future innovation.”

Affirmative and strength-based, appreciative inquiry aims to build on existing strengths and successes rather than adopting a traditional problem-solving approach that focuses on what isn’t working and needs fixing (Cooperrider & Whitney, 2001).

Appreciative inquiry is based on the idea that the questions we ask are hugely consequential. Human systems, its proponents assert, grow in the direction of their persistent inquiries. It is therefore important to ask the right kinds of questions and to use the right kind of language when we ask them so that the means and ends of our inquiries correlate (Cooperrider, 2008).

A comprehensive list of in-depth articles on appreciative inquiry is shared in the resources section below. For now, let’s view this conversation with David Cooperrider, then dive into a list of classic texts and a fine-tuned list of recommendations on appreciative inquiry in education.

Appreciative inquiry: a conversation with David Cooperrider

The 6 Bestselling Classic Books on Appreciative Inquiry

Here, we’ll discuss the six most well-known and acclaimed classic books on appreciative inquiry that its creators and early pioneers wrote.

These remain extremely valuable sources, some of which have been substantially revised and updated since their original publication dates. The texts have significantly shaped the direction of subsequent research as well as the field of appreciative inquiry as a whole.

1. Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change – David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change is a great introduction to this revolutionary change management method. This practical guide highlights the various applications of appreciative inquiry and how it can affect customer satisfaction, competitiveness, profits, and societal contributions.

Using numerous inspiring real-life examples, the book illustrates the transformative potential of appreciative inquiry, showcasing its many applications and benefits. It explains the four-D cycle — discovery, dream, design, and destiny — as well as other key appreciative inquiry concepts.

The book positions appreciative inquiry as a cooperative search for the best in people and organizations.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Appreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change – David Cooperrider, Diana Whitney, and Jacqueline Stavros

The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change

Perhaps still the most seminal work on appreciative inquiry, this classic makes a strong case for the effectiveness of appreciative inquiry in organizational development.

Appreciative Inquiry Handbook explains in great detail what the key concepts of appreciative inquiry are and how it works. Importantly, it includes stories of successful AI interventions and many classic articles.

It also includes directly applicable sample project plans, interview guidelines, participant worksheets, a list of valuable resources, and a glossary of key terms.

This second edition has been extensively revised, updated, and expanded. Throughout, the authors focus on how appreciative inquiry can support an organizational focus on sustainability and the “triple bottom line” of people, prosperity, and planet.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry – Sue Annis Hammon

The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry

This bestselling, brief, and accessible classic provides an excellent introduction to what appreciative inquiry is and how we can apply it.

The third edition has been extensively updated, including the latest research and new case studies and examples. Hammond clearly explains the underlying philosophy of appreciative inquiry, emphasizing the importance of asking positive questions to uncover the best of what an organization already has and is.

She illuminates the four-D cycle and provides practical examples and case studies to illustrate how appreciative inquiry can be applied in various organizational settings.

This appreciative inquiry book also offers a set of simple, powerful AI tools, such as the “four-I” framework: initiate, inquire, imagine, and innovate.

Find the book on Amazon.


4. Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination – Jane Magruder Watkins, Bernard Mohr, and Ralph Kelly

Second Edition Appreciative Inquiry

Watkins, Mohr, and Kelly illustrate how appreciative inquiry can drive organizational change by fostering creativity and imagination.

Their book includes numerous relatable real-world case studies that highlight the transformative impact of the method.

Thoroughly revised and updated, the second edition of Appreciative Inquiry is a user-friendly resource for discovering how to apply the appreciative inquiry process in organizational development and human resources contexts.

It encourages us to see companies as organic systems and to engage with their human, technical, and organizational functions in synchronicity.

Find the book on Amazon.


5. Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management: Using AI to Facilitate Organizational Development – Sarah Lewis, Jonathan Passmore, and Stefan Cantore

Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management

Appreciative Inquiry for Change Management explores appreciative inquiry in depth, identifying what exactly makes it work and how we can implement it in concrete ways to improve performance in our organizations.

The authors explain the skills, perspectives, and approaches we need for successful change management and demonstrate how what they call a practical “conversational approach” can be applied to help organizations design positive change.

The book includes various case studies from organizations that have already benefited from appreciative inquiry in their change management practices, such as Nokia and BP.

Written in accessible language, this second edition also features new chapters on how positive psychology can enhance appreciative practice as well as appreciative coaching.

Find the book on Amazon.


6. The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today’s Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems – Peggy Holman, Tom Devane, Steven Cady, and William Adams

The Change Handbook

This extensively updated second edition of the classic, bestselling appreciative inquiry book does not focus exclusively on appreciative inquiry.

Instead, The Change Handbook features profiles of 61 change methods by key originators and practitioners of a variety of effective organizational change methods. They include appreciative inquiry, but also the World Café, Six Sigma, Future Search, and Open Space Technology.

Each author outlines the key features of their approach and provides practical tips and case studies, as well as valuable references for those who want to learn more.

A concise comparative chart helps us determine which change methods might work best for our needs. The Change Handbook is an invaluable reference book for those who are interested in a more comprehensive overview of whole systems change methodologies and who are interested in combining core strengths that can be found in different approaches.

Find the book on Amazon.

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These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients with tools to discover and harness their unique strengths.

Appreciative Inquiry in Education

Appreciative inquiry is most often used as a tool for organizational change. However, it can also be a powerful method for improving outcomes in educational settings.

Below, we share details of three books that adapt appreciative inquiry frameworks to help children and educators thrive by focusing on their strengths, resources, and capacity to envisage brighter futures for themselves and others.

They focus on harnessing the power of curiosity, inquiry, and imagination to foster students’ love of learning.

1. Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders, & Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners – Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt

Inquiry Mindset

Children are naturally curious creatures who explore their worlds through play, imagination, and discovery. Sometimes, however, these qualities get lost in their educational journeys.

Trevor MacKenzie and Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt show us in their book how we can reignite curiosity in educational settings. Key to their approach is fostering an appreciative inquiry mindset in young learners.

The authors set out concrete and actionable strategies for educators so that we can better empower learners, increase engagement, and accelerate achievement.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice – Trevor McKenzie

Dive Into Inquiry

Dive Into Inquiry shows educators how best to support learners and create an “inquiry classroom” that fosters and celebrates students’ agency.

The book combines theory, narrative, and numerous case studies with valuable guidance on how to create compelling lesson plans. It also includes examples of essential questions from a variety of disciplines as well as practical step-by-step goals.

Its focus is to help educators tap into and activate student passions, curiosities, and interests.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education: A Transformative Force – Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair

Appreciative Inquiry in Higher Education

Tailored specifically for the higher education sector, this book explores how appreciative inquiry can be a transformative force in educational settings.

The authors share stories and practical insights for educators and administrators looking to implement appreciative inquiry in academia.

The book provides a practical guide to the theory and practice of the framework and includes models and processes, case studies, agendas, and plenty of practical advice for transferring the principles of the framework into academia.

Find the book on Amazon.

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In addition to classic texts on appreciative inquiry and AI books applicable to education, we also reviewed GoodReads’s list of highly rated appreciative inquiry books. While we omitted the books already mentioned above, these books caught our attention and were all rated four stars or more.

1. Encyclopedia of Positive Questions Volume I: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Bring Out the Best in Your Organization – Diana Whitney, David Cooperrider, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, and Brian Kaplin

Encyclopedia of Positive Questions Volume I

This encyclopedia is a comprehensive guide that introduces the concept of appreciative inquiry and provides a wide array of positive questions to facilitate organizational development and positive change.

The book offers practical insights and strategies for leveraging the power of positivity and constructive dialogue to enhance organizational performance, foster innovation, and nurture a thriving work culture.

Through its collection of positive inquiries, the book aims to inspire leaders and teams to uncover strengths, possibilities, and untapped potential within their organization, ultimately leading to sustainable and impactful growth.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Appreciative Team Building: Positive Questions to Bring Out the Best of Your Team – Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom, Jay Cherney, and Ron Fry

Appreciative Team Building

Appreciative Team Building is a book that focuses on leveraging the power of positive questioning to enhance team dynamics and performance. It introduces the concept of appreciative inquiry as a method for creating a positive and productive work environment.

The authors emphasize the importance of asking positive and empowering questions that highlight the strengths and potential of team members. Through real-life examples and practical exercises, the book provides a framework for implementing appreciative inquiry in team building, problem-solving, and decision-making processes.

Readers can expect to gain insights into fostering a culture of collaboration, creativity, and inclusivity within their teams. By encouraging individuals to focus on their strengths and accomplishments, the book aims to inspire a more motivated and engaged workforce.

Overall, Appreciative Team Building offers a refreshing approach to team development, emphasizing the value of positivity and constructive dialogue in maximizing team potential.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-Based Workshops – Robyn Stratton-Berkessel

Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions

In this book, readers can delve into practical and structured workshop designs that emphasize the identification and amplification of strengths within teams and communities.

Each workshop is tailored to foster engaging conversations and collective exploration of positive potential, ultimately leading to collaborative problem-solving and innovative outcomes.

With a focus on strengths-based approaches and a wealth of practical tools and techniques, this book provides readers with the framework and confidence to facilitate appreciative inquiry workshops and generate collaborative solutions that harness the collective wisdom and capabilities of participants.

Find the book on Amazon.

17 Exercises To Discover & Unlock Strengths

Use these 17 Strength-Finding Exercises [PDF] to help others discover and leverage their unique strengths in life, promoting enhanced performance and flourishing.

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Relevant Resources From PositivePsychology.com

If you are curious to learn more about appreciative inquiry, you may enjoy our other blog articles on the topic.

You may also be interested in some of our strength-enhancing worksheets. Why not have a look at the Past, Current, and Future Strengths worksheet, for example?

Or the Recognizing Your Strengths worksheet, which is particularly useful for discovering your hidden strengths?

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop their strengths, check out this collection of 17 strength-finding tools for practitioners. Use them to help others better understand and harness their strengths in life-enhancing ways.

A Take-Home Message

Appreciative inquiry focuses on strengths, inner resources, and what is already working well, rather than trying to fix what isn’t working. It also reminds us about the importance of the kinds of questions we ask, the language we use when we ask them, and the power of collaboration and cocreation.

The change we seek to create depends on not just what we look for but also, crucially, how we look for it. Appreciative inquiry requires a meta-level of awareness, encouraging us to pay close attention to the process of change creation.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Strengths Exercises for free.

ED: Updated January 2024

  • Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D., & Stavros, J. M. (2008). Appreciative inquiry handbook: For leaders of change. Crown Custom.
  • Cooperrider, D., & Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In R. Woodman & W. Pasmore (Eds.), Research in organizational change and development (vol. 1, pp. 129–169). Jai Press.
  • Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2001). A positive revolution in change: Appreciative inquiry. Public Administration and Public Policy, 87, 611–630.
  • Ludema, J. D., Whitney, D., Mohr, B. J., & Griffin, T. J. (2003). The appreciative inquiry summit: A practitioner’s guide for leading large-group change. Berrett-Koehler.

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