How to Thrive in our ‘New Economy of Strengths’: Cooperrider

How to Thrive in our ‘New Economy of Strengths’: Cooperrider

Thought leader continues to propel AI forward as powerful performance management tool

In a time when many describe the new economy as increasingly complex and rapidly changing, amongst other even more downbeat adjectives, David Cooperrider is talking about “our new economy of strengths — a world where every asset and strength is instantly accessible with a click of the button.”

Cooperrider is Case Western Reserve University’s internationally renowned organizational behavior professor known for his strengths-focused Appreciative Inquiry (AI) strategy and research. 

This past year he was honoured as the third and current Peter F. Drucker Distinguished Fellow for the Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito School of Management, part of Claremont Graduate University.

The school bestowed the honour in April shortly after a lecture and program Cooperrider provided there on his concept of positive institutions.

Cooperrider’s newest work, shared with professors Ron Fry of Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management  and Peter Senge of MIT, is the application of AI and large scale strengths-based approaches for the creation of sustainable cities and green economic design.

Most recently he is facilitating a game-changer project in Cleveland, Ohio, the goal of which is to make the city and area a “model of sustainability and a leader in the emerging green economy over the next nine years.” AI and the AI summit are at the core of this project.

Asked by Axiom News about the relevance and evolution of AI in today’s economy, Cooperrider describes how the philosophy and methodology, and particularly its whole-system approach, is a powerful tool for generating innovation, engagement and agility, all recognized as critical elements for thriving in the current economic environment.

“The logic of Appreciative Inquiry is simple,” says Cooperrider.

“If we live in a universe of strengths then we need management methods that are not just top down, nor just bottom up.  Appreciative Inquiry says there is a third form of management — and this, I deeply believe, is the future of management. It is not top down or bottom up but whole. Good management, increasingly, is all about thinking in terms of configurations.”

Cooperrider gives an example of a manager at a trucking company calling for a planning session and, if he’s taking an AI approach, being sure to invite not only the leadership and front-line staff but also customers, supply chain partners and others, such as representatives from world class model organizations.

“This is the Appreciative Inquiry management model of the future: every management act is propelled by configurations of strengths,” he says.

“It’s a way of living what is called systems thinking — not just talking about systems thinking but living it, doing it, together.”

Cooperrider highlights that the AI summit is one particularly exciting tool for undertaking this whole-system approach, noting that it can be especially powerful for leveraging innovation, concentrating strengths and aligning stakeholders.

“Appreciative Inquiry is to self-organizing systems what deficit-focused management is to bureaucratic systems,” he adds.

“Deficit analysis is about control and specialized separations. Appreciative Inquiry is about innovation and strengths-based configurations of wholes.  In short, creating is different than solving.

“I’ve come to the conclusion you can never change things by solving yesterday’s problems,” says Cooperrider.

“You change things by assembling new combination of strengths and then creating fresh designs that establish the new and eclipse the old.”

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Writer Bio

Michelle Strutzenberger's picture
Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

She's most grateful for the incredible people she gets to work with every day at Axiom News, as well as the many other amazing folks she's encountered through this work.

"I have always seen the opportunity to do this work as a gift," she says.

Michelle's writing has also been published by a wide variety of other organizations and publications, including the following:
- Abundant Community, an initiative of authors John McKnight and Peter Block to awaken the power of families and neighbourhoods
- PLAN Institute, a network dedicated to enabling families to create a good life for people with disabilities
-.New Scoop YYC, Calgary's news co-op practicing Generative Journalism
- The Canadian Community Economic Development Network
- Nieuwmakers, a Belgian news agency
- Restore Commons, an initiative of Peter Block and friends
- Academy for Systemic Change

Contact Michelle: 705-741-4421 ext. 27 or michelle(at)

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