Having helped everyone from the United Nations and the U.S. Navy to FedEx and the American Hospital Association with Appreciative Inquiry—his pioneering large-group design- thinking method—David Cooperrider is setting his sights on revolutionizing meetings and conferences. His big idea? The Complete Convention. BY SUSAN SARFATI
When David Cooperrider was a kid, his father and brothers created “a Kennedy-like compound” at a lake where around 80 members of the family would come together every sum- mer. “It’s rare in our society,” he said, “this kind of commit- ment to family. Imagine all the cousins, aunts and uncles, and everyone staying together as a family across decades.” More than 50 years later, the summer get-togethers still happen. It was in that setting where Cooperrider developed a
fascination with large-group dynamics and how decisions were made together, from where the next swing set should go, to whether it was time for a new raft in the swimming area. “From my childhood, I was fascinated by the large- group dynamic,” he told me. “I paid attention to the chal- lenges. I developed a passion for the effectiveness of large groups and how to make convening a group of people fun, inclusive, lasting, and productive.”
64 pcmaconvene December 2011 A professor of social entrepreneurship at theWeatherhead
School of Management at CaseWestern Reserve University, where he also serves as faculty director of the school’s Fowler Center for Sustainable Value, Cooperrider has pursued that passion, pioneering a change-leadership methodology called Appreciative Inquiry (AI). The book he co-wrote with Diana Whitney about AI—Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revo- lution in Change—shifts the perception of organizations from “problems to be solved” to “centers of infinite strengths.” And what better place to find “centers of infinite
strengths” than at meetings? Over the past decade, I have had the good fortune to work with David on a number of projects using Appreciative Inquiry with associations.