5 Reasons Why Generative Businesses Are So Powerful

by cv harquail on March 6, 2014

I’d rather help one organization become generative than help a dozen organizations become ‘great’.

Why? Because one generative organization has more positive impact on the world than a whole industry of organizations that are efficient, excellent, profitable, and self-focused.

For generative businesses, neither the size nor the direction of their impact is accidental.  Here are five ways that generative organizations make sure that they have a powerful, positive impact.

Commitment By Design


Generative organizations commit themselves to being positively influential. They aren’t irregular in their efforts, being influential here but not there, or tomorrow but perhaps not the day after. They are unwavering in their effort to exert positive influence every day, with every activity.

When being positively influential is a central part of the organization’s reason for being, it designs a method of influence into all of its norms, systems and routines. This way, a  generative organization’s efforts to influence become regular, targeted, and consistent.

 MultiDimensional Targets

Generative organizations punch above their weight, because each effort is aimed at more targets on more dimensions. Just like the tech company with 15 employees can change the behavior of 5 million users with just a small tweak in their product’s design, generative businesses have “extreme leverage“. They can influence several tiers of stakeholders with one, well-designed business practice.

Generative organizations think across the direct relationships they might have with each stakeholder, to consider their stakeholders’ relationships with each other. And, they think beyond their one-to-one relationship with each stakeholder to consider how they might influence their stakeholders’ stakeholders too. One generative company, working on dozens of relationships at once, raised exponentially by the number of relationships each stakeholder business can influence, develops leverage that far outstrips its actual size or revenues.

Hand-off Accountability

Generative organizations know what works for them, but don’t presume to know what works best for you.  Once they open up opportunities for their partners, generative organizations hand-off what’s next to their partners. Partners then have the autonomy, self-control, and the ability to choose how they want to take advantage of these opportunities. This ‘hand-off’ posture encourages the stakeholders of the generative business to take responsibility for their own implementation and their own results, increasing the likelihood that stakeholders will generate additional insights as they adapt the ideas for their own use.

Proof of Concepts

Generative organizations use themselves as laboratories and field sites to test their own change ideas, which means that they offer not only ideas but also proof that these ideas work.  Generative organizations don’t bloviate, they demonstrate. Demonstrations also offer the chance to adjust, develop and evolve our understanding of the idea itself as well as what it takes to put that idea into practice.

Bound By The Truth

Organizations that want to demonstrate for others how their change their ideas work have to open themselves up to scrutiny and skepticism. To convince others by demonstration, the generative organization needs to be open and transparent, and to be authentic by matching what they espouse with what they do. They also need to be honest, so they can only advocate what they’ve learned will work or what they are currently willing to try.


See also:

How to Design Social Business Systems For Engaged, Social Organizations
Can a Flu Shot demonstrate Authenticity?

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