What word captures the central quality of a Boost organization?
What word seems weird to a whole lot of business people?
Funny how that works. Now, what to do about it?
I had a very smart friend read over my book proposal, and he said that the word ‘generative’, along with the corresponding word ‘generous’, didn’t seem very business-y.
It’s a little woo-woo, don’t you think? A little crunchy. And who knows what generative actually means?
What does it mean to be ‘generative’?
The word ‘generative’ may be unfamiliar to many managers, but the quality of generativity is something we’ve sought in our work practices and systems for a long time.
Something is “generative” when it’s able to originate or produce something, or to give rise to new possibilities.
- Generative ideas produce new ideas,
- Generative process produces new ways of doing things or new outcomes,
- Generative learning enhances our ability to create,
- Generative relationships build new capabilities in both partners, and
- Generative leadership helps others see opportunity in their actions.
Generative practices are important because they make new things possible. They have the capacity for ‘more’ built right in.
Generative practices make new opportunities possible, but not inevitable. We don’t know and can’t predict specifically what a generative behavior will trigger. We can only expect these practices to create openings and invite new outcomes to emerge.
We also can’t control what others do with the generativity that we put into our behavior towards them. Just as when we invite people to a party and we can’t control if or how they’ll rsvp, we can’t control what people or organizations do with the generative behaviors we extend.
We can also understand generativity by considering its opposites:
- Generativity is the opposite of entropy; it reverses the process of decay.
- Generative is the opposite of extractive; generative practices support, nourish and add to the organization rather than only use its resources.
Generative activity yields a greater range and volume of resources than it consumes — it creates thick value.
Generative organizations are built on generative practices, and filled with generous people. The generative practices create the energy, the ‘randomality’, the serendipity, the enthusiasm that invite and propel individuals to grow, and through our growth, create more together.
Generative organizations have the capacity to enrich collective strengths, virtues, and capabilities. By “collective” capabilities, I mean not just the capabilities of the organization, but of the individuals within it, the organization’s partners, the organization’s community, and the organization’s economy.
Generative organizations focus on creating creating the networks, systems, principles and practices that allow individuals, other organizations, communities, and networks to flourish. As Grant and Notter describe it, generative organizations produce and create value for themselves and the whole system as they grow.
Which sounds an awful lot like being boosty.
What next steps, dear friends?
Business people may be unfamiliar with the term ‘generative’, but they are longing to find, join and invest in organizations that are generative.
So should I add the word ‘generative’ into my definition of Boosting? Or simply toss out the word and hope that it piques people’s interest?
Humanize: How people-centric organizations succeed in a social world, by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant
Being a social organization means being generative, by Maddie Grant
Defining Thick Value in a Boost Economy
5 Ways to Expand How We Think About Value in a Boost Economy
Are Your Social Business Systems Designed for Extraction or Contribution?