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Generativity Two: Expanding Perspective and Actions about Deep Care

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We also find the use of “generativity” in descriptions of complex global communication networks that undergird our Internet services, come with code, and have the capacity for rapid change and flexibility that is truly remarkable. Quoting work by Jonathan Zittrain regarding the Generative Internet, David Post (nd, p. 2) suggests that generativity:

. . . denotes a technology’s overall capacity to produce unprompted change driven by large, varied, and uncoordinated audiences. The grid of PCs connected by the Internet has developed in such a way that it is consummately generative. From the beginning, the PC has been designed to run almost any program created by the manufacturer, the user, or a remote third party and to make the creation of such programs a relatively easy task. When these highly adaptable machines are connected to a network with little centralized control, the result is a grid that is nearly completely open to the creation and rapid distribution of the innovations of technology-savvy users to a mass audience that can enjoy those innovations without having to know how they work..

It is not our intention to move fully into Post’s rather technical analysis of generative networks; we simply wish to note how his analysis parallels and perhaps points to the inherent value found in Eriksonian generativity. Post is describing a dynamic process that is often labeled a “self-organizing system.” This type of system is the focal point for many studies about complexity and chaos, areas of scientific investigation that are now popular and widespread. On a global level, this type of system has also become familiar through the work of Thomas Friedman and his portrait of the “flat earth.”

With regard to Generativity Two, we can point to the loss of personal ego and control among men and women in networked organizations who are truly generative. They encourage the generation of new innovative ideas (first use of the generativity term) and the generation of sustained energy (second use of the generativity term) by identifying (analytic skills), supporting (relationship skills) and promoting (entrepreneurial instinct) the natural, self-organizing processes of their organization. It is these generative processes and cycles that enable an organization and its members to “come alive” and flourish. Organizations die when their leaders seek to tightly control its operations. Generative leaders influence but do not control; they seek to understand, not predict, and they encourage self-monitoring by their colleagues rather than their own ongoing inspection. This is what Generativity Two is all about, and we are thankful for the insights provided by those who make alternative uses of the word “generativity.”

We turn in the next essay to the analyses of Generativity that have been provided by theorists and researchers who begin with Erikson’s description of mid-life Generativity—and what we are calling Generativity Two.

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