From Generosity to Generativity

If you’ve ever joined forces with your colleagues in the spirit of giving, whether it was taking on a pro bono client or organizing a food drive, you know the powerful effect collective generosity has on organizational culture. But there’s a different kind of giving that may have even greater benefits; instead of just being generous, your organization can be generative.

“Generativity” is relatively young as a buzzword, but the concept is nothing new. According to Authentic Organizations, generative organizations are those that create opportunities for themselves and others simultaneously, generating their own value while helping up-and-comers learn to do the same.

For firms striving to practice Great Law, generativity provides two opportunities to cultivate and reinforce the type of culture it takes to get there. First, firms can look to other generative organizations and businesses that take an open-book approach to culture. Whereas some companies closely guard their organizational structures like secret family recipes, others share these philosophies with the world.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the social media service Buffer is singled out for this type of generative action. Transparency is a core value at Buffer, which routinely and freely distributes information about the way it operates, the lessons it learns and the results it generates. By sharing the thinking behind its salary formulas, performance analyses and workflow processes, Buffer offers invaluable examples to other businesses and organizations seeking ways to improve.

The lessons your firm might learn as a result of Buffer’s innovation is only half of the win-win situation. Consider what Buffer gains by giving so much away:

  • Increased awareness of its culture and core values, which may attract like-minded employee prospects
  • Unique motivation to do the best work possible, since much of that work will become public information
  • Goodwill cultivation among key stakeholders including customers and prospects, who may find greater need for Buffer’s services as they succeed by following its example

Law firms can reap similar benefits by thinking beyond generosity and incorporating generativity as extensions of their cultures. That doesn’t necessarily mean embracing radical transparency as Buffer has done; there are countless ways to be generative. Anything that creates opportunities for others to learn, improve, expand or experiment can be a generative tactic. Read the entire Harvard Business Review article for more current examples of generativity from companies like Etsy, Community Sourced Capital and NewWorkCity.