Multiple definitions exist for the transitive verb ‘to generate’, all of which have to do with positive change and the emergence of something new. When we talk about positive change in the world, we talk of generating new relationships and new behaviours. Yet to what extent are our personal and professional practices generative?
Many of our interactions centre around dialogue – bringing together people seeking to make change through conversation and agreement. Indeed this is the focus of the Generative Dialogue Project (http://generativedialogue.org), and on Friday, Bettye Pruitt joined our meeting exploring change processes and ran a session considering the extent to which our dialogue practices are and could be generative.
Following a short breathing exercise to calm and focus everyone after the coffee break, Bettye grouped us into small ‘pods’ of four chairs in a tight circle. She posed three questions:
1) What opportunities do you see for generative dialogue processes in your work? And what are your highest aspirations for what these might produce?
2) What factors are supporting a shift to using more generative dialogue processes in your work? And what are the challenges?
3) What do you personally need to change in order to implement more generative processes in your work?
Within each group of four, we explored these questions, one at a time in rotating pairs with one person in the pair talking for three minutes, followed by the other person in the pair. Returning to plenary, the group then came together to answer a further question:
From this experience, what is different? What new knowledge do you have and how are you going to use it going forward (i) in this meeting; and (ii) beyond?
This was a great, generative exercise for the morning of the first day of the meeting. Why? Because we had the opportunity to get to know one another as we spoke (uninterrupted) and listened to another (without interrupting), sharing thoughts for three minutes on each of the three questions. Because we focused on opportunities, aspirations and supporting factors (very appreciative!). Because we had a space and time for reflection. And, most importantly, because we focused on what we personally need to change.
I found the focus on the ‘I’ extremely powerful and empowering – helping me to see more clearly my personal role in my professional environment and making me articulate what I, personally, need to start changing today if I want my work to be more generative!