E85: Generative Culture

E85: Generative Culture

Rebirth. Generative Culture

March 2021

Author: Dr. Dave Cornelius

Generative culture gives birth to organizations and human beings to demonstrate the ability to achieve amazing outcomes during the turbulent, uncertain, novel, and ambiguous (TUNA) times or normal times. Developing generative business culture is fundamental to frictionless operations and effectively collaborating with people to succeed in a highly competitive world.

In Table 1, Professor R. Westrum, Department of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University, describes three organizational cultures – Pathological, Bureaucratic, and Generative.

Table 1: Westrum Typology of Organization Culture


Pathological (Power- Oriented) Bureaucratic (Rule- Oriented) Generative (Performance-Oriented)
Low cooperation Modest cooperation High cooperation
Messengers “harmed” Messengers neglected Messengers trained
Responsibilities shirked Narrow responsibilities Risks are shared
Bridging discouraged Bridging tolerated Bridging encouraged
Failure leads to scapegoating Failure leads to justice Failure leads to inquiry
Novelty crushed Novelty leads to problems Novelty implemented


What can be expected in a generative culture? An environment where people learn quickly and innovate to meet the demands of customers and markets.  People collaborate more effectively with a higher level of trust in all directions (across, up, down) of the organizational structure.  The petty personal issues are dampened to elevate the goal of the products and services that are needed to sustain the business competitiveness.

If you have worked in a safe, high-performing team environment, the emotional energy is off the charts.  It is intoxicating at times, and when you fail, there is a whole team focus to learn together from experiments.  The blame game goes away, and we settle in a good place that states “we are all learning.”

Generative cultures enable diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.  You will find generative leadership that creates space for development and performance growth for the people working in the organization and community.  The generative environment’s generosity extends beyond the doors of the organization.