By Jack Martin Leith, generative intervention exponent.
The generative intervention principles are arranged in three groups:
Generative intervention principles at three levels: the enterprise, mission & projects, and conferences & meetings
Group 1: Principles that form the basis of generative enterprise. These principles also apply to missions/projects and conferences/meetings.

Read about generative enterprise

Group 2: Principles for planning, designing and conducting the mission the enterprise undertakes in order to manifest its intent, and the projects that form part of the mission. These principles also apply to conferences/meetings.

Group 3: Principles for designing and conducting co-creation conferences and meetings.

+ Group 1: Principles that form the basis of generative enterprise
The enterprise exists to actualize its vision of realized potential and enrich the world in a particular way. This is its intent. Working hypothesis: When the enterprise acts in tune with its intent, the enterprise is enriched as a natural consequence.

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with great vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

Woodrow Wilson
28th President of the United States
Everyone, from the CEO to the most junior employee, contributes to the accomplishment of an enterprise-wide mission aimed at manifesting intent within a given timeframe. Work always serves intent and mission.

Generative intervention is an enterprise-wide capability and practice, and not just a methodology employed for ad‑hoc projects.

Ecosystem Value Specification, by Jack Martin Leith

As an individual, group or organization, you cannot create value. You can only create value generators — notably products, services, facilities, establishments, events — and meta generators (producers of value generators).

Value is co-created through the interaction between the value beneficiary (e.g. consumer or service user) and the value generator.

Arresting the generation of anti-value is just as important as — and sometimes more important than — the generation of new value.

Read more about value and anti-value

Whenever possible, replace one-way messages with generative (i.e. value focused) conversations.

Employees are not instruments of senior management. They are autonomous creators.

Each person is a leader — ready, willing and able to help colleagues unlock their creative potential and make a meaningful contribution to the mission.

+ Group 2: Principles for planning, designing and conducting the mission and associated projects

Generative intervention is an end-to-end programme of work, extending far beyond the ‘whole system in the room’ gatherings that some call large group interventions and that others, including me, call co-creation conferences. See How does a generative intervention differ from a large group intervention?

Generative intervention is about co-creation, which should not be confused or conflated with engagement, or with the Sell, Test or Consult approaches shown here:

Tell–Sell–Test–Consult–Co-create — elaborated Model by Jack Martin Leith

Generative intervention calls for a genuine appreciation of the value requirements of each constituent of the enterprise ecosystem. If you disapprove of the value sought by one or more parties, you are inviting failure.

The mission team’s work is bringing the new into being as an act of creation.

Robert Fritz argues for a distinction between problem-solving and creating. Problem-solving is taking actions to have something go away: the problem. While problem-solving has its place, as a persistent approach, it limits accomplishment. The elimination of a problem does not mean that the desired result can be created. As distinguished, solving a problem does not by design lead to a creation. Creating is taking action to bring into being that which does not yet exist: the desired outcome.

Source: Wikipedia—Robert Fritz
The current state of affairs would morph into the desired state of affairs of its own accord if there were no constraints. Participants in the mission and the co-creation conference that precedes it must identify these constraints and seek to eliminate them. Essential but missing resources — funding, people, tools etc. — are viewed as constraints.

When creating the new and realizing its value generation potential, the Lifespan model provides better guidance than bloodless alternatives.

The lifespan of a value generator
The state of affairs you seek to create is the desired present, not the desired future.
Credit: James Wilk.

Co-creation conferences and subsequent missions are designed with the assistance of a team that includes a selection of people who will undertake the downstream work. The ‘design assist team’ should include at least one sceptic.

You know you have a good design when you show it to people and they say, “oh, yeah, of course,” like the solution was obvious.

Source: Chris Pratley, quoted by Julie Zhuo, Product Design Director, Facebook, in Good Design, on Medium.


Make any non‑negotiable design constraints explicit. Identify and eliminate phantom constraints.

Read more about real and phantom constaints

The design takes into account the realities, perspectives and value requirements of all constituents of the enterprise ecosystem.

Right action flows from intent.

Read about intent

Practise rapid prototyping and early experimentation.

Create then adjust.

Robert Fritz
Maintain acute awareness of the entire ecosystem in which the enterprise is situated.

A microcosm of the enterprise participates in the mission and the co-creation conference in which the mission is planned.

Microcosm of the enterprise, by Jack Martin Leith

Change is not a journey. That’s just a metaphor, and one that can prevent the desired state of affairs from being realized quickly, smoothly and with no unwanted consequences. Here are some change metaphors that liberate rather than constrain:

  • Change is like turning the barrel of a kaleidoscope. Source: James Wilk | Read more.
  • Change is like adding milk to coffee. Source: Niels Pflaeging | Read more.
  • Change is like a railway operative switching the points, so that events unfold like this rather than like that. (Sometimes the journey metaphor is unavoidable. Use it, but do so mindfully.)

Railway switch / turnout / points

Read about the fallacy of ‘change is a journey’

Resistance to change is seen for what it really is: a signal that the value requirements of the individual, group or enterprise, or those of entities they care deeply about, are not being met, and an appeal—perhaps a disruptive one—for matters to be put right.

Read about the fallacy of resistance to change

Those involved in accomplishing the mission serve others without the need for reciprocation.

A shared vision of realized potential offers inspiration and creates cohesion.

Ownership and commitment arise from an egalitarian approach.

Pool knowledge for the sake of the mission and its future beneficiaries.

Think not only with your mind, but also with your heart. In the Japanese and Chinese languages, heart and mind are the same word: kokoro and xin respectively.

More info here.

Invite join-in rather than seeking buy-in or soliciting engage-in.

Read about the fallacy of employee engagement

Breakdown is welcomed as an opportunity for breakthrough.

The mission serves as a learning laboratory for the benefit of the enterprise as a whole.

+ Group 3: Principles for designing and conducting co-creation conferences and meetings
The conference design takes the following requirements into account:

  • Maintain constant awareness of People, Reality, Intent, and Action, as a designer, facilitator and participant. Source: Jack Martin Leith.
  • Foster Open Mind (banish the Voice of Judgement), Open Heart (banish the Voice of Cynicism), and Open Will (banish the Voice of Fear). Credit: Otto Scharmer, Theory U / Presencing.
  • Bring about a shift from Ego-Awareness to Eco-Awareness. Credit: Otto Scharmer. Download a preview of Leading From the Emerging Future by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, which provides more information about (2) and (3).

When operating with ego-system awareness, we are driven by the concerns and intentions of our small ego self.

When operating with eco-system awareness, we are driven by the concerns and intentions of our emerging or essential self— that is, by a concern that is informed by the well-being of the whole.

The prefix eco- goes back to the Greek oikos and concerns the “whole house.” The word economy can be traced back to this same root. Transforming our current ego-system economy into an emerging eco-system economy means reconnecting economic thinking with its real root, which is the well-being of the whole house rather than money-making or the wellbeing of just a few of its inhabitants. But while the whole house was for the Greeks something very local, today it also concerns the well-being of our global communities and planetary eco-systems.

Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer
Combine Type 1 and Type 2 methods. The strengths of one compensate for the weaknesses of the other.

Type 1 and Type 2 methods

Note 1: See The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook, by John Heron | Download the entire book (pdf; 428pp)

Include upstream all those whose contribution, cooperation and consent will be required downstream.

Contribution means active participation, co-operation means providing occasional assistance or, at the very least, not blocking progress, and consent means giving formal or informal approval to the proposed course of action.

Contribution These are some of the ways in which employees and other ecosystem constituents might contribute to the mission:

  • Talk about their realities and perspectives
  • Outline their value requirements
  • Provide information
  • Offer ideas
  • Make suggestions
  • Spark insights
  • Give feedback
  • Participate in the downstream work

Key question for innovators and change agents:

  • What contribution does this project require from the various ecosystem constituents?
  • How can this be secured?
Cooperation means responding to requests and advancing the mission rather than obstructing its progress.

Key question for innovators and change agents:

  • Whose cooperation is required?
  • How can this be secured?
Consent The mission can quickly hit the buffers if one or more ecosystem constituents has not given consent, either tacitly or explicitly. This consent should never be taken for granted.

If you are wondering how consent differs from cooperation, consent is required at critical stages of the project, whereas the need for cooperation is continuous.

Key question for innovators and change agents:

  • Who can delay or scupper the project by withholding their consent?
  • How can this consent be secured?
The maximum group size for a proper conversation is four people, or five at a push. Designers of co-creation conference activities must remember this. See my article What is the maximum group size for a proper conversation? for information about three research studies.

The co-creation conference must be designed to meet the needs of introverts as well as extroverts.

Cordial invitation, warmhearted hosting and hospitable conditions are among the prerequisites for a successful co-creation conference.

The people attending a co-creation conference are not a passive audience. They are active participants, even if there are 50, 500 or 5,000 of them. The audience concept has no place in the realm of co-creation. Always challenge any use of the term during a conference design meeting.

Connection before content.

We must establish a personal connection with each other.
Connection before content.
Without relatedness, no work can occur.

Peter Block
No conference design survives first contact with the participant group. Even the most well-conceived design is nothing more than a best guess about what will actually happen in the room, and will need to be adjusted as events unfold.

The facilitator(s) must be able to move fluidly between the three facilitation modes: direction (hierarchical), negotiation (cooperative) and delegation (autonomous).

Three facilitation decision modes

Foster a community in which people come together as part of something larger than themselves that they believe in and gain meaning from. Credit: Robert W. ‘Jake’ Jacobs, the originator of Real Time Strategic Change.

Asking customers or other stakeholders for their ideas and then cutting them loose is not co‑creation — it’s research.

+ Where did the principles come from?
I garnered the principles from diverse sources over the course of three decades.

Here are some of the sources:

Some principles came to light during my co-creation work with corporations and non-profits, which began in the early 1990s.
Jack Martin Leith
Bath, United Kingdom
March 2019