Principles of Appreciative Inquiry


The Core Principles of Appreciative Inquiry, which describe the basic tenets of the underlying AI philosophy, were developed in the early 1990’s by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva (Cooperrider’s advisor at Case Western Reserve University). The five original principles are: Constructionist, Simultaneity, Anticipatory, Poetic, and Positive.

The Constructionist Principle:

Words Create Worlds

Reality, as we know it, is a subjective vs. objective state and is socially created through language and conversations.

The Simultaneity Principle:

Inquiry Creates Change

Inquiry is an intervention. The moment we ask a question, we begin to create a change. “The questions we ask are fateful.”

The Poetic Principle:

We Can Choose What We Study

Teams and organizations, like open books, are endless sources of study and learning. What we choose to study makes a difference. It describes – even creates – the world as we know it.

The Anticipatory Principle:

Image Inspires Action

Human systems move in the direction of their images of the future. The more positive and hopeful the image of the future, the more positive the present-day action.

The Positive Principle:

Positive Questions Lead to Positive Change

Momentum for [small or] large-scale change requires large amounts of positive affect and social bonding. This momentum is best generated through positive questions that amplify the positive core.1


Additional principles that have surfaced throughout the years that are based on, or constructed from, the five original core Ai principles. They are:

The Wholeness Principle:

Wholeness Brings Out the Best

Wholeness brings out the best in people and organizations. Bringing all stakeholders together in large group forums stimulates creativity and builds collective capacity.

The Enactment Principle:

Acting ‘As If” is Self-Fulfilling

To really make a change, we must “be the change we want to see.” Positive change occurs when the process used to create the change is a living model of the ideal future.

The Narrative Principle:

Stories are Transformative

We construct stories about our lives (personal and professional) and live into them.2

The Free Choice Principle:

Free Choice Liberates Power

People perform better and are more committed when they have the freedom to choose how and what they contribute. Free choice stimulates organizational excellence and positive change.3

The Awareness Principle:

Be Conscious of Underlying Assumptions.

Understanding and being aware of our underlying assumptions are important to developing and cultivating good relationships. Practicing cycles of action and reflection can build one’s self-awareness.4

Discover More

Explore the links below and start inspiring positive change in individuals and organizations today!

Graphic showing the Original and Emerging Principles of Appreciative Inquiry


1Cooperrider, D.L., & Whitney, D. A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry. Taos, NM: Corporation for Positive Change, 1999.

2Barrett, F. & Fry, R. Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Approach to Cooperative Capacity Building. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publishing, 2005.

3Whitney, D. & Trosten-Bloom, A. The Power of Appreciative Inquiry. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2003.

4Stavros, J. & Torres, C. Dynamic Relationships: Unleashing the Power of Appreciative Inquiry in Daily Living. Chagrin Falls, OH: Taos Institute Publishing, 2005.

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