I spoke about Humanize at a meeting put on by Goodwill Industries this week, and in the session I focused on the human element Generative. This is the first time I chose to focus on that element–in most presentations I have been talking about Open, as it feels like the foundation to me. But we actually get more questions (at first anyway) about Generative because it is just not as common a word as open, trustworthy, or courageous. At the most basic level, generative simply means the ability to produce or create. Generative organizations are constantly renewing themselves, growing and developing. It’s more of a dynamic spiral than a straight line. The opposite of generative is stagnant.
Generative organizations have cultures that truly value inclusion. There is a simple and powerful reason for this: to be generative implies innovation, and it’s hard to do innovation if you don’t have diversity. If you don’t believe me on that point, then please go read The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson, because he lays out it out perfectly. When everybody thinks exactly the same way, things rarely change. But groups that can handle diversity turn out to be much better at innovation. We need cultures that really know how to include difference, that enable difference to thrive, rather than being shut off or pushed to the edges, because it will help us innovate.
Creating an inclusive culture, of course, is easier said than done. You can’t just announce to staff that you’re inclusive and instruct everyone to bring more difference to work. In the book we talk about creating an “infrastructure for inclusion” to support the development of the culture. And we also talk about the issue of visibility, which is where social media comes in.
If you are truly going to value difference in your organization, than difference must be visible. It must be talked about. It must be highlighted. It must be emphasized. Usually, when it comes to shifting a culture, I’m not a big fan of drawing explicit attention to what you’re trying to do. I find in most cases it backfires. If you stand up there and shout out to everyone that you have a trustworthy cutlure, for instance, I tend to be skeptical. But with difference, you need that. You dont’ have to shout it, mind you, but you need to make the issue visible.
Social media is a great way to do this. If you supported ALL of your staff to be active in social networks, sharing and linking and posting as employees of your organization, then the inherent diversity in your organization would be visible to everyone. Does that sound scary? Maybe. You might not be able to control the message. There might be some inconsistency. But that might spark some creative and new ideas. And others in the organization might notice it and be inspired to share something internally, even reaching across department lines as they get to know other staff.
When you include differences, you can spark creativity, innovation, and action. Visibility is one of the keys, and social media is a great way to do it.