Lately I have been enjoying the word generative.

Say it. Feels gorgeous, no? A delicious meal of a word.

I led a workshop for Breakfast People last weekend – Lean In By Listening In: Meet Your Inner Mentor. It’s a new one for us, and getting from a blank piece of paper back in January through to waving goodbye to participants has been WORK. Designing, organising, researching, worrying, writing, daydreaming, practising, talking, explaining. A lot of -ings.

Like many people who work in the world of start-ups, I love to do a lot with a little. I enjoy the challenge of working out how to design a thing so it will create bigger results than expected. Being resourceful, frugal, even a little bit cunning. With squeaky pen and whiteboard we shall change the world!

Back in the late 90s when I left poverty academia and dived into corporate life, I was surprised to find I had lots of creative outlets in my HR Assistant job. A friend who was at drama school asked me, “Don’t you miss your degree?” and I said that drafting a company policy was an act of creative writing. It needs a once-upon-a-time, a narrative and a happily-ever-after. It needs to make sense and be readable, engaging. It must elegantly meet its purpose. It should channel warmth and have a tone that speaks in the company voice. I aim to get a laugh in every one. An employee handbook should be a work of art.

A software developer once explained to me that he considers writing a piece of code as an act of artistic creation and I said, I feel the same way about employment contracts. He looked, um, disappointed and sad.

I struggle with the c word. I know I am not a Proper Creative Person because my inner critic tells me they smell of oil paints and have beautiful ceramics lying around their studios, they wear gently fraying clothing with headphones that cost more than their rent, and they don’t eat crisps as a side salad.

And then while developing the Inner Mentor workshop, I came across this word, generative. I was reminded that a goal in coaching is to help your client to ‘find their generative space’. Generative! Yes! This really resonates with me. ‘Creative’ carries baggage about Beauty and Genius. Generative doesn’t. It means generating energy and warmth and heat and light. Generating doesn’t fret about “market” or “how it looks” or “perfection”. It doesn’t have to be pretty and by definition, it doesn’t have to be finished.

Forgive the cliché, but I just checked Generative in the dictionary and it says fertile, fruitful, unconventional, productive and ingenious. Yes, THIS I can do and THIS is what I’m going for with my brilliant clients.

I want to get into my generative space and help others to be generative. The art of it can come later.


p.s. Yes, I’ll be running the workshop again; I’m still buzzing as I write this, 3 days later. I just read some participant feedback that said, “I was blown away by this workshop… I found it incredibly insightful”. Sign up for the waiting list here to get first notification of confirmed dates.