What is meant by the terms generative and generativity?

Much contemporary theory appears to lack generative potency, that is, the capacity to challenge prevailing assumptions regarding the nature of social life and to offer fresh alternatives to contemporary patterns of conduct.

Source: Kenneth Gergen, (1978), Toward Generative Theory, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (pdf), Vol. 36, No. 11, 1344-1360.
Generativity versus Stagnation is the seventh stage of the theory of psychosocial development originated by Erik Erickson, an eminent psychologist and psychoanalyst (not to be confused with Milton Erickson, a psychiatrist and medical hypnotherapist).

Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development

Source: The Psychology Notes Headquarters.
Here, generativity refers to making your mark on the world through caring for others, as well as creating and accomplishing things that make the world a better place.

Generative enterprise

On this website, generative refers to the latent and deployed power of an individual, group or enterprise to conceive, develop and introduce new creations that generate maximum stakeholder value and enrich the world.

In a generative enterprise, everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee is focused on accomplishing the enterprise’s mission, thereby manifesting its intent and generating maximum value for the entire ecosystem of which the enterprise is but one interdependent part.


The dual aspects of intent are a world-enriching purpose and a vision of realised potential
Intent A fusion of world-enriching purpose and vision of realised potential. Intent is the enterprise’s heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way.

Purpose Why the enterprise exists, beyond profit.

I consider purpose to be a commitment to achieve some kind of significant impact in the world around you.

Source: The Connection Between Narrative and Purpose, by John Hagel, co-chairman, Deloitte LLP’s Center for the Edge.

Vision of realised potential A depiction (an actual picture accompanied by vivid explanatory text) of how the world will be when the value generation potential of the enterprise is being realised and the enterprise is animating its purpose to the full.

Mission An enterprise-wide programme of work aimed at manifesting intent within a given timeframe.

Each mission has the aim of increasing the manifestation of the enterprise’s intent

The main distinguishing features of a generative enterprise

It has an ethos of world enrichment and unconditional service.

The enterprise seeks to generate maximum value for all constituents of the enterprise ecosystem and not just favoured stakeholders.

It relentlessly pursues its intent—a heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way.

All work contributes to an enterprise-wide mission aimed at manifesting intent within a given timeframe.

Rich Creation is the principal means by which the enterprise accomplishes its mission.

Read about Rich Co-creation

It is widely understood that value is not ‘delivered’, as if by FedEx. It is generated through the interaction between the value beneficiary (e.g. customer, user) and the value generator (product, service, facility, establishment or event).

By means of a parallel structure called the creative learning organisation, the enterprise develops a strong generative capability and the workforce becomes a creative powerhouse.

Read about cultivating the creative learning organisation

Every employee is a coach and fully committed to helping colleagues unlock their creative potential.

Legacy enterprises and generative enterprises compared

Use the buttons to move between the two slides.

Why transform your organization into a generative enterprise?

Generative Enterprise is a new proposition and hard evidence of its effectiveness is not yet available. However, the benefits listed below are predicted.

By enriching the entire ecosystem of which the enterprise is but one interdependent part, more value is created for the enterprise as a natural consequence.

The viability of the enterprise is strengthened and its long-term future is more secure.

The best talent is attracted and retained.

The reputation of the enterprise is enhanced.

A distinctive and respected corporate brand arises.

Competitive advantage is boosted.

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility activities are no longer handled by specialist functions. They are an intrinsic part of everyone’s day to day work.

The enterprise becomes a learning organization.

A generative culture emerges. This embraces all other forms of organizational culture sought by senior managers: innovation culture, learning culture, collaborative culture, coaching culture, agile culture, responsive culture, Teal culture, and so on.

Shareholder value increases.

See also The business case for Rich Co-creation

The originator of the Generative Enterprise concept is Jack Martin Leith

Jack is also the originator of Rich Co-creation, a broad approach for collaborative value creation, and OpenSpacePlus, a mission-based method for initiating and sustaining collaborative action in response to a pressing challenge.

Read about Rich Co-creation

Read about OpenSpacePlus

Read about Jack Martin Leith