Home Concepts Adult Development Expanding Perspectives, Expanding Actions and Generativity Two

Expanding Perspectives, Expanding Actions and Generativity Two

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Gary Quehl and William Bergquist

So far in our exploration, we have been presenting a new narrative about the nature and dynamics of generativity. We have relied on a script that has already been written by the original playwright, Erik Erikson (1963) —and by subsequent authors and researchers in the field of adult development. In this essay, we will expand on that text by investigating the various ways in which Generativity Two is played out in several different relationships; in this essay we turn to our own research findings about Generativity Two, relying primarily on the 100 interviews conducted with Emerging and Senior Sage leaders in Nevada County, California. We also rely on our own experiences as coaches and consultants to client who are now mentoring or considering taking on a mentoring role in their organization.

At the heart of Generativity Two is an expanding perspective about deep care and the engagement of actions that are aligned with it. We consider this expanding perspective and set of actions to be a result of our formulation of Generativity One; we are generative when we raise our children, and when we initiate a project that is important to us. Both clearly are primary examples of deep care. It is when we move into Generativity Two (and later into Generativity Three and Four), that we reach out through deep caring even further in both time and space.

What’s in a Name: “Generativity”

The term “generativity” was first used by Erik Erikson to identify an ongoing concern for people besides oneself and one’s family. This concern typically develops during mid-life and, according to Erikson, involves a need to nurture and guide younger people in a supervisory, sponsoring, or mentoring role. Erikson’s generativity is about contributing to the next generation, as well as leaving a legacy in the organizations with which we work as successful mid-life leaders.

Erikson’s basic idea about generativity has been expanded and probed in great depth by other adult development theorists and researcher—most notably Dan McAdams and Ed de St. Aubin (McAdams and de St. Aubin, 1998). We will review his work shortly but must first note that the term “generativity” is used in many other ways—at least three of which are indirectly relevant to Erikson’s use of the term. All three of these alternatives seem to enhance our understanding of Erik’s generativity by providing a focus on innovation and creativity, sources of energy, and foundational processes in a specific system.

Generativity as Innovation/Creativity

On an everyday basis we make use of the term “generate” when speaking of the creation of new ideas, slogans, logos and many other types of thought and image being created. We conduct “thought experiments” and do “brainstorming” to generate many new and “off-the-wall” suggestions for an advertising campaign, new use for a wrench, or ways to get that young kid living on the street into a safe environment. Sometimes, we even label someone a “generative” thinker.

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