When Bob Stiller, CEO of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, sought to guide his company toward the next stage of significant growth, he sent his private jet to fetch David L. Cooperrider.
Cooperrider, a pioneering organizational behavior professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, is known worldwide for co-creating the theory known as “Appreciative Inquiry” (AI).
After incorporating AI, which is essentially based on the belief that an organization can advance by identifying and building on a company’s strengths and aspirations, Green Mountain (now Keurig Green Mountain) grew in less than a decade from annual sales of less than $100 million to an enterprise with a market value of more than $24 billion.
Today, AI, with the Weatherhead School as its home and birthplace, is practiced not only in the corporate world, but also in public service, economics, education, philanthropy, faith and even international relations.
“Without (AI), it would have been very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to constructively engage so many leaders of business, civil society and government,” said United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who commended Cooperrider for introducing the approach to the UN.
The latest acknowledgement is a new AI-focused academic center that the Stiller Family Foundation established and named in Cooperrider’s honor: The David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry. The center will be located in the Robert P. Stiller School of Business at Champlain College, in Burlington, Vt., and will be dedicated during a ceremony there Nov. 8.
“To be sure,” Cooperrider said, “this is not about me, but is testimony to the great power of Appreciative Inquiry as a way of leading and living, and Bob Stiller was touched at a deep level, not only by ‘AI’ as a way of creating a successful business, but by the power of the positive, in all walks of life. ”
Business leaders and educators continue to adopt the AI approach around the world, changing their business cultures and developing academic centers to sustain what they learned from AI experts at the Weatherhead School. Companies such as Apple, Whole Foods Market, McKinsey & Co. and Fairmount Santrol have implemented various aspects of AI in their organizational management culture with tangible results.
“This honor is only the latest example of the profound impact that David’s writing and teaching have had upon realms from business and government to academia and more,” Weatherhead School Dean Robert Widing said.
As the honorary chair of the new center at Champlain, Cooperrider will offer guidance and assist with the college’s executive education offerings. Champlain Associate Professor Lindsey Godwin, who obtained a doctorate at the Weatherhead School and is a Cooperrider research associate, will lead the center’s academic direction.
Cooperrider, the Fairmount Santrol – David L. Cooperrider Professor in Appreciative Inquiry at the Weatherhead School, will continue on the faculty at Case Western Reserve, where he is founder and faculty chair of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. At the Fowler Center, AI is researched and taught, along with several other novel management methods—such as sustainable value and design thinking—that, together, distinguish Weatherhead from other business management schools.
Cooperrider created the original Appreciative Inquiry theory with Suresh Srivastva—his early mentor. The two published their first article on the approach in 1987 in the journal Research in Organizational Change and Development. Cooperrider also credits AI co-creators Ronald Fry, professor in organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School, Frank Barrett, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, and Godwin.
Cooperrider is an internationally known management scholar and executive consultant who has written more than 20 books and more than 100 articles and book chapters. He has received some of the organizational behavior field’s highest honors.
In 2012, he was named the Peter F. Drucker Distinguished Fellow for the Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito School of Management (part of Claremont Graduate University) for his contributions to management thought. In earlier years, he was awarded the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society honor for “Pioneering Impact” in the Field; honored for his “Distinguished Contribution to the Field of Workplace Performance and Learning” by the American Society for Training and Development; and was named Visionary of the Year by Training Magazine in 2000.