Unleashing Generativity: Moments of
Aliveness, Inspiration and Imagination
in Qualitative Research
Professional Development Workshop,
August 7, Academy of Management Meetings 2010, Montreal
Workshop Goals
1. Facilitate learning about the concept of generativity and its utility
2. Engage you in learning from the sharing of generative moment
Make sense of why it is important to care about generativity
Create understanding of how to detect generativity
Learn how to cultivate generativity in research
Foster development of the community of qualitative researchers
3. Inspire experimentation through uncovering new research practices
4. Create meaningful connections with other qualitative researchers
Part 1: Introduction and setting foundation (25 minutes)
Part 2: Playing with other people’s stories (30 minutes )
Part 3: Playing with your story (35 minutes)
Part 4: Cultivating conditions for generativity (20 minutes)
Part 5: Closing - Invitations to coming alive in doing
qualitative research (10 minutes)
Participants: Say your name and one
sentence about what most excites or
exhausts you about qualitative
research …
© Anderson, Carlsen, Dutton
Jane Dutton, University of Michigan
Arne Carlsen, SINTEF/Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Kjersti Bjørkeng, SINTEF/Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Marlys Christianson, University of Toronto
Stewart Clegg, University of Technology, Sydney
Karen Golden-Biddle, Boston University
Libby Hemphill, University of Michigan
Sally Maitlis, University of British Columbia
Foundations: What is Generativity?
Generativity =
Strips of experience that bring a feeling of energy and
aliveness to people and also have the potential to
produce more enduring expansive and
transformative consequences with regards to 1)
development of ideas, 2) development of researchers,
their practices and relationships, and 3) thought-action
repertoires of people in the researched organizations.
Roots of Generativity?
© Anderson, Carlsen, Dutton
Narrative & literary theory: the generative properties of richness
(e.g. Bruner 1986; Clandinin and Connelly 2000) and the life of ideas (Gergen
1978, Barthes 1981; Bakhtin 1981).
Positive organizational scholarship: life in research (Dutton 2003),
human growth in practice (Roberts et al 2005; Carlsen 2006) and
mechanisms that are psychologically strengthening for individuals
and collectives (Dutton and Glynn 2008)
Appreciative inquiry: unlocking generativity in organizational
development and in theorizing (e.g. Cooperrider and Srivastava 1985; Bushe
2009) or IT systems (Avital and Déenie 2009)
Theory about discovery and imagination in interpretation (e.g.
Kearney 1998; Weick 1989; Anderson 2004; Locke, Golden-Biddle and Feldman
Motivational drivers of generativity in identity theory (Erikson
1950) and narrative psychology (McAdams et al 1997; Bauer and McAdams
2004; McAdams 2006).
Why Generativity?
Descriptive: Provide a fuller account of the research
experience to include somatic, participative and affective
modes of knowing
Enabling: Build developmental resources for qualitative
Invitational: Imaginine instances and conditions for life
in research and starting a conversation
Why moments?
Why stories?
“Epiphanies of the ordinary”
© Anderson, Carlsen, Dutton
Moments are units of experiencing that
 Broaden how we learn from research practice: do not presuppose grand
journeys (as in Frost and Stablein 1993; Stablein and Frost 2004),
 Attend to the seemingly mundane (Morrill 2011).
 Attune us to opportunities for generativity that are enmeshed in the ‘halo and
penumbra’ (James 1890/1950: vol. 2: 255) of streams of experience
Stories are well-suited for examining generativity because they capture the
 Processual: connecting sequences of human doings and intentions over
time (Sarbin 1986)
 Holistic: preserving richness and connectedness in experiencing
 Historically-situated: attending to the intersection of the temporal patterns
of inquiry and that of researchers.
Playing with other people’s
© Anderson, Carlsen, Dutton
Break into groups of 3-4 (appoint a person who will report out from your
group, a note taker)
Read Story 1 in your notebook (make sure you are reading the same
story—there are different stories at different tables—note PDW facilitators,
these are your stories from the book! ). Each quad or trio discuss:
1. What’s the plot in the story?
2. Where is the generativity in the story?
3. What are the impacts of the generativity?
4. What are the practical implications for doing qualitative research?
Insight Sharing (whole workshop group)
Playing with your own stories
© Anderson, Carlsen, Dutton
Break into dyads — try new pairing! Jot down notes about a generative
moment you have had in doing qual research—put on blank card: Focus on
a particular moment. Paint the scene about where you are and what
Share with a partner. Discuss together:
Where was the generativity in your story and what did it do (to you, to
others, to the research process )?
What facilitated each other’s generative moment?
What is one action you could take to make more probable a generative
moment or positive impacts of generative moments?
Insight Sharing (whole workshop group) Be prepared to share one insight from
your dyad.
Cultivating generativity in research
Move to using insights about generativity in research to infuse
and inspire practice.
Back in your trios and quads—take out the deck of cards
Look at the images and implication summaries from our 8 focal
Consider what has been shared in the room. What excites your
quad the most ? What can you use tomorrow?
Share with each other—Shout out of take-aways (whole group)
Coming alive in qualitative research
Lessons across 40 stories from new and established scholars:
①Come alive through exploring tensions and liminal space
②Come alive through facilitating play
③Come alive by seeking participatory modes of engagement
④Come alive through co-discovery, also with practitioners
⑤Come alive through questioning and comparing
⑥Come alive in embracing a sense of wonder
⑦Come alive by engaging in sparkling conversations
⑧Come alive by cultivating habits of humility
Follow-up? What’s next?
A book: Carlsen A. and Dutton J. E. (Eds). 2011. Research Alive.
Exploring Generative Moments of Doing Qualitative Research.
Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.
A website for resources on generativity in qualitative research:
Submit your own story, read stories of others, flash cards, papers,
workshop materials
Continue the conversation!: Engage fellow travelers whether
students, researcher colleagues or practitioners: Share stories
and ask the questions!
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Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. M. Holquist, (ed). Austin: University of Texas Press.
Barthes, R. (1981). Theory of the text. R. Young, ed. Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader. Routledge, London, 31-47.
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