In its most practical construction, AI is a method that selectively seeks to locate, highlight, and illuminate the life-giving forces of the organisation. AI seeks out the best of 'what is' to help ignite the collective imagination of 'what might be'. AI provides a process that enables quantum leaps — ways of moving ahead that surpass the incremental and mechanical to enable innovation, inspiration and organisational alignment leading to new levels of success and achievement for the people and for the organisation.
Reference: Cooperrider, D. L. & Srivastva, S. (1987). "Appreciative inquiry in organizational life". In Woodman, R. W. & Pasmore, W.A. Research in Organizational Change And Development. Vol. 1. Stamford, CT: JAI Press. pp. 129–169.