Generativity is about caring about what comes after you.

In a social context, it’s when old people care about subsequent generations, instead of maximizing their own happiness for the last few years.

In business, it’s when executives care about the health and outcomes of the whole executive team, instead of their own career after this job.

Generativity is building the next version of yourself, your team, and your organization. This includes current work and all the work you’ll be capable of in the future.

For software development teams (among many others), companies care about the work they’re capable of doing. They care about productivity — the outward-facing work of the team.

productivity is externally visible; generativity improves the team

If we look at productivity as a property of individuals, if we measure and reward “how many tickets did you personally close?” then we give people reasons to work alone, to rush, to keep information to themselves. This cuts away at the potential of the team.

If we care about the team as a whole, both now and in the future, then we encourage generativity. Teach each other, communicate, craft software so that people can understand and work with it.

Generativity is hard to measure, but not so hard to detect. Ask, who helped you today? Who answered your questions and taught you something useful? What scripts or documentation or comments or variable naming made your work smoother?

long-term productivity comes from a healthy team

If productivity is the externally visible work that is attributed to you, then I define:

Generativity – the difference between your team’s outcomes with you, vs without you.

It is not about me, and it is not about right now. I want to make my team and my company better for the future. I want to be generative.