Knowledge management as a generative practice?

A serendipitous tweet today brought me to a new concept: generative business practices.

This appears to be a crystallisation of various strands of good working practice, juxtaposed with traditional notions of productivity. I hadn’t come across the author, CV Harquail, before, but she has an impressive CV.

The shadows we castThe clearest expression of the idea of a generative practice is provided in a post from last December: “actions, ways of doing, and ways of thinking, that don’t execute a plan but instead create unpredictable opportunities for everyone”

As I read more, this idea resonated with many of my thoughts about good knowledge management. Whilst we sometimes know from the start what impact our work will have on our organisations, sometimes the results are necessarily less tangible.

Broadly speaking, there is also a spirit of generosity amongst those who work in knowledge management — both internally (sharing ideas and insights and encouraging those habits within the organisation) and externally (working with others to deepen understanding about the field).

The more detailed explanation confirmed my thoughts:

Something is “generative” when it’s able to originate or produce something, or to give rise to new possibilities.

  • Generative ideas produce new ideas,
  • Generative process produces new ways of doing things or new outcomes,
  • Generative learning enhances our ability to create,
  • Generative relationships build new capabilities in both partners, and
  • Generative leadership helps others see opportunity in their actions.

Generative practices are important because they make new things possible. They have the capacity for ‘more’ built right in.

Generative practices make new opportunities possible, but not inevitable. We don’t know and can’t predict specifically what a generative behavior will trigger. We can only expect these practices to create openings and invite new outcomes to emerge.

I need to reflect a little more on this idea and how it might help people assess the impact of knowledge management. I have already part-drafted a post on measuring the value of KM, and it may pop up in that.

2 thoughts on “Knowledge management as a generative practice?”

  1. Very interesting. So often we want to present solutions and knowns when actually what’s most valuable is to open the lid of the box…

    1. Good metaphor Zoe! This is linked to something that Atul Gawande is exploring in his current Reith Lectures. (Something else I need to blog about…)

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