From 'Mechanistic to 'generative'

Over the years of working with organizations, we’ve become convinced that programmatic, packaged — ‘mechanistic’ — approaches to organizational learning and change rarely make a lasting difference — primarily because people and organizations are not machines.

We see organizations as conscious living systems with the potential to grow, contribute and make a lasting difference in the lives of those they serve. We are committed to practicing generative approaches to organizational learning and change as a way of unleashing an organization's full creative and productive potential, and maximizing its lasting contribution to its many stakeholders — customers, employees, partners, community, nature, etc.

To distinguish generative approaches, we contrast them with mechanistic approaches below. We’ve made the comparisons somewhat extreme to highlight the two ends of the spectrum of change approaches. In reality, change initiatives can lie at any point along that spectrum.

The differences between generative and mechanistic approaches to change:

Project 10X is our integrative, organic and highly flexible strategy for growing those organizational capabilities most critical to leading and thriving in today’s VUCA world

Project 10X is our integrative, organic and highly flexible strategy for growing those organizational capabilities most critical to leading and thriving in today’s VUCA world

Organization Design Simplified provides an elegantly simple (but not simplistic) 10,000ft view of organization design and what’s involved in the journey of system-wide organization change

Organization Design Simplified provides an elegantly simple (but not simplistic) 10,000ft view of organization design and what’s involved in the journey of system-wide organization change

Mechanistic approaches to change invariably cost more than expected and rarely deliver the desired benefits. More importantly, the opportunity costs from inept organizational change efforts can be enormous. Not only are direct business benefits at risk, but the erosion of trust, energy, and creativity can become irreversible.

With generative approaches you have to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, provide plenty of light and nutrients, and be patient. However, once you've grown the organization's capacity for generative learning and change, it keeps on growing—gradually becoming self-regulating, self-improving, and self-evolving. The true benefits keep appreciating while the true costs essentially disappear.

To understand how we apply generative approaches in our work, see Project 10X — our integrative, organic strategy for supporting committed leaders and changemakers in leading lasting organization-wide change, and growing those organizational capabilities most critical in today's VUCA world.