Sparking Innovation with Generativity and Transparency in Business
December 1, 2022
Highly competitive businesses are the ones that continuously evolve with the needs of their customers and the inevitable changes in people, behaviors, and markets. In order to remain competitive, businesses have long sought a recipe for innovation. Along the way, the term generativity has emerged in various forms to describe a sustained atmosphere of new ideas and innovation. These new ideas and innovations can be fostered through a combination of increased autonomy and transparency in business. However, before changes in policies and practices are made, conditioning the mindsets of the workforce to handle the changes is paramount for preventing major productivity disruptions and improving creativity and engagement.
In terms of autonomy, while researching Apple iOS methods of digital platform innovation, a paradox of control and generativity was uncovered. Apple seeks new ideas and uses for its products and services to remain competitive through innovation. Yet, the means by which Apple sustains innovation comes from a balance of control and generativity.
For example, a balance is needed between platform developers and users, as the users of digital platforms often go beyond the scope of what was originally intended by the developers. Keeping digital parameters open for users to explore new ways to use software allows for generativity—the natural creation of novel ideas–which can be monetized for competitive advantage. However, if parameters are left too far open, underlying structures are eventually lost by moving too far away from the original purpose, resulting in decreased efficiency and usability.
When applied to management and professional development, fostering innovation requires this balance on interpersonal levels (e.g., between managers and employees) and on individual levels (e.g., between opposing personality archetypes). Just as a level of autonomy is needed for digital platform users to develop new ideas and functions, managers need to allow workers a level of autonomy to develop new procedures and concepts.
In order to continue innovating in a positive way—without derailing users—a balance is needed between what is allowed (control) and what is possible (generativity). Autonomy levels are crucial, as too much can derail an organization's mission and productivity, similar to the digital platform users. Therefore, determining the level of appropriate worker autonomy should be anchored on the number of workers with agile mindsets.
Balancing control and generativity for sustained innovation comes from enabling as many workers as possible to master agile personalities. For a business to be agile, its workers must be agile. Workers with agile personalities can achieve a balance of control and generativity as they have the ability to deftly shift between opposing personality types in the Tilt Framework (i.e., Impact, Connection, Clarity, and Structure) and the corresponding sub-persona archetypes.
Leveraging personality assessments like the True Tilt Personality Profile™ (TTP), which provides a thorough report behind individual behaviors (hidden fears and motivators), is important for developing the self-awareness needed to achieve agility. It is nearly impossible to determine self-regulation strategies to combat negative behaviors that prevent agility until people recognize the underlying forces behind their actions.
In addition to increasing worker autonomy, increasing business transparency–with the goal of infusing workers with more relevant business knowledge–is also important for fostering generativity and innovation. As business leaders and managers are often a generation or two older than entry-level employees, this process of cultivating generativity through transparency involves allowing an openness between senior leaders and younger workers through the sharing of values, knowledge, and experiences—in both directions.
In line with the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (SST), as people grow older and begin to perceive their lifetime as limited, their motivations begin to change in alignment with Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychological Development. Accordingly, generativity becomes important to people roughly from ages 40-65. A more general generativity psychology definition is “the propensity and willingness to engage in acts that promote the wellbeing of younger generations as a way of ensuring the long-term survival of the species.”
During this period associated with resolving the Generativity vs Stagnation dilemma, people often become concerned about leaving their mark on the world–one that will outlast themselves. The middle-aged population tends to experience the desire to cultivate a means for passing on their accumulated knowledge, often through mentees.
According to Tilt Presence, to resolve these existential dilemmas and live a positive life where people can contribute their true creative purpose to the world, there are “8 Existential Questions” that we all have to answer for ourselves as we grow and transform to contribute:
Am I safe? (security vs. mistrust)
Am I capable? (power vs. self-doubt)
Am I good? (approval vs. rejection)
Am I special? (attention vs. guilt/shame)
Am I important? (status vs. insignificance)
Am I productive? (autonomy vs. dependence)
Am I valued? (acceptance vs. isolation)
Am I worthy? (recognition vs. despair)
Working through these questions helps achieve an agile mindset that is crucial for generational knowledge transfers to take place, as both parties (the senders and receivers), will need to be flexible with each other's personality and values differences. Otherwise, they may counterproductively repel each other.
Business leaders having mentees is one method of transparency, which encourages a generative workplace by extending knowledge to the younger workers’ benefits. Divulging useful business information to workers increases workers’ abilities to offer multiple perspectives and solutions to business problems and goals.
As feedback from frontline employees is also important, enriching frontline employees with useful business knowledge should also increase the quality of their feedback. Their feedback will then be more relevant as they will better understand business objectives. Increasing the amount of relevant knowledge input into a system of workers heightens the potential for generating new ideas and process innovations.
Just like preparing for the changes in worker autonomy, to be successful in implementing business changes in transparency, people’s mindsets need to be preconditions and ready for the changes. This especially includes the mindsets of the leaders who will be the change facilitators and key influencer teams that will model the desired changes. Leveraging personality assessments to uncover hidden fears and motivators is a crucial tool for preparing agile mindsets of these change leaders. Additionally, professional development laser coaches can be implemented to help guide individuals and teams through business changes.
Increasing workplace autonomy and business transparency are the means to spark innovation through generativity, yet agile minds are needed to avoid sparking upheaval. To best achieve this balance in a workplace across numerous individuals, achieving an internal balance of individuals’ mindsets is a critical first step. This internal balance is what is considered to be agile.
As often referenced by change management practitioners, the “J” Curve denotes an inevitable and significant decline in productivity whenever major changes are implemented. The optimal way to navigate this disruptive period is to counteract any decline in productivity through preemptive preparation and continuous coaching of the workers who will be confronted with the changes.
Before implementing major changes in business practice, a foundation of agile mindsets must first be cultivated among the workforce to succeed. Before the floodgates are opened, and the reins come off, workers’ mindsets need to be agile enough to handle big changes. Otherwise, business leaders run the risk of intense resistance and conflict that can derail the entire objective. Leveraging personality assessments and professional development coaches to prepare and guide workers (leaders included), throughout the change in business practices and values is fundamental for preventing major disruptions in productivity when cultivating innovation through generativity and transparency in business.