Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XXI:  Generativity Three: Consecrating, Gathering, Preserving Values, Story-Telling

Essay XXI:  Generativity Three: Consecrating, Gathering, Preserving Values, Story-Telling

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Generativity Three can be enacted in a seventh way by providing clarity, representation, demonstration, monitoring or reinforcement of cherished values. Frequently, values are not preserved because they are unknown or misunderstood, and as a result are not carefully monitored or reinforced. One of us worked many years ago with the Bank of America, which at the time was initiating an organization-wide values clarification process. The history of Bank of America is filled with memorable events that represented a strong commitment to community service. The story begins with Giannini’s establishing the bank (then called The Bank of Italy) on two barrels and a board at the end of Market Street in San Francisco following the 1906 Earthquake. Existing banks were not lending money to Italian-American small businesses, so Giannini decided to help these business owners himself. Similar representations of community service values—though on a much larger scale— were seen in the bank’s commitments to finance farming in the Central Valley of California after World War II.

The Bank of America seemed to have lost its way during the second half of the 20th Century. Leaders of the bank wanted to return to the earlier values and felt it was important to repeat this history through storytelling (the eighth act of Generativity) and clarifying and reinforcing the values embedded in this history. We see in this one example the way in which Generativity Three can be engaged by an entire organization, even if the generative motive was interwoven with less generous motives about reforming bank internal business practices. The Bank of America was responding at that time in large part to the threat of East Coast banks moving into the California market. While this values-oriented project never seemed to get much traction in the Bank of America, it does illustrate the way in which Generativity Three can be engaged through the clarification of values inherent in personal, organizational, and community history.

One of our four Featured Players, Dale, describes a similar act of Generativity Three when faced with the challenge of preserving organizational values. He offers a much more successful example than the Bank of America:

I am struck by one thing that happened to me late in my work career that made a significant difference for my company. I was asked to head an office of business conduct and ethics by the president and chairman of the company. That came about because some senior employees did some bad stuff, and the company was really in trouble in an area that was significant. This prompted the chairman to create the office, and he asked me to head it. I had no idea how to proceed. I looked across the country to determine whether there were any models and found a few that were just starting. This was in 1990-91. I had conversations with some company executives to find out how to get started.

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