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Got a brilliant idea? Chuck it in the bin. Let your people do the dreaming.

If you get 10 people in a room in about 45 minutes you've easily got 50 ideas up on the whiteboard or on a wall using a bunch of multi-coloured sticky notes. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone's got at least half a dozen. But they usually go nowhere.

Leaders get stuck in bureaucracy trying to fit new ideas into an organisational vision and strategic plan which is subject to a complex set of needs/parameters/politics etc. Here are some examples of typical big ideas pursued by the leaders in organisations today (with the business goal):

  • Move into a new territory or region with an existing service model (growth)

  • Replace ageing technology (better operational performance)

  • Open a new service program (growth)

  • Re-engineer business processes (efficiency)

  • Deploy a mobile app (innovate) or

  • Formulate a partnership (growth)

There are so many ways organisations can either change the way they operate or grow their business. I am asking why is it up to the leadership to decide? Why can't employees dream a little?


Here are some real examples of organisationally driven, but poorly executed, ideas. Top-down initiatives, pushed very hard by senior management which resulted in wasted time and money while burning a lot of employees.

IDEA: Home Care Packages Territory Expansion

Idea: Rollout Home Care Packages services into new regions to grow revenue and client base.

Outcome: Organisation’s existing systems and processes were insufficient to scale. Lost lots of money.

Learning: The people doing the work already knew that.

IDEA: Introduce a new Disability (NDIS) Service Model

Idea: Innovative model of centre-based disability support services.

Outcome: After two years the staff were unclear on the strategy and business model. Dissatisfied customers (and some good staff) went elsewhere.

Learning: The people doing the work already knew it wouldn't work.

IDEA: Community Care Continuous Improvement

Idea: Hire a Continuous Improvement Manager to lift organisational performance.

Outcome: Manager was inundated with thousands of ideas, got overwhelmed and lacked internal management support - so nothing really changed.

Learning: The people doing the work resented more bureaucracy.

IDEA: Home Care Packages Technology Uplift

Idea: Be a market leader in the Home Care market with the latest in-home care technology.

Outcome: After three years, the IT systems only delivered 50% of what they really needed. Wasted time, money and opportunities along the way.

Learning: The people doing the work already knew that.


The Generative Change Model (search for Gervase Bushe on Google for lots of info) starts with the people who do the work. The biggest challenge in organisations is often agreeing on what the problem is you are trying to solve (e.g. vested interests, politics etc get in the way). And, it usually also requires changes in belief systems and mindsets. To overcome these constraints many organisations revert to the omelette approach - you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. The notion that you need to "break" the organisation to rebuild it is pretty high risk.The alternative, the Generative Change Model is 100% bottom-up:Throw out the vision and ask a simple question: What would make a worker's life easier?


For implementation success, an idea has to originate from the right place. That place could be the people doing the work, not top management. Generative Change is about two concepts:Let the people doing the work define the change andLet leaders lead the processThis is a bitter pill to swallow for leaders used to directing traffic by creating elaborate visions. "Letting it go" is tricky for people used to control. The role of the leader is about managing the emergent process, not the idea itself.


The second concept of Generative Change is to decide how this possibility will make a difference to the team doing the work. It's not about the end game. Rather, it is about what you are trying to achieve every day.By developing a daily common purpose specific to a team, such as "easy safety" or "stress-free customer service", small progressive changes can be implemented aligned with that purpose (not an organisational vision).


For ideas to be implemented you’ll need leaders managing a "process" by not coming up with a solution. Teams will be engaged in a "purposeful local goal" without being tied to a constraining vision statement to find their own solutions.Adaptive leaders realise that fixing problems is not up to them but change will lead to new problems. Employees will understand continual improvement is a never-ending pursuit of small wins (rather than unfulfilled big changes leading to "change fatigue").Pilot programs can trial newly generated ideas and, if successful, these can be scaled to the rest of the organisation through bottom-up momentum.


The Generative Change Model is not new, but it's gaining worldwide momentum because big visions and large-scale projects haven't delivered the business results intended.The challenge for organisations is Generative Change requires a new type leader where the "planned change" playbook is thrown out the window in favour of adaptive leadership. A scary thought for many.

A forward-thinking Board along with a progressive CEO might wish to explore Generative Change. The top-down traditional formula of Vision + Strategy + Business Plan + Execution hasn't worked all that well and often results in a blame game.What would it look like let your organisation's vision and direction emerge from a generative process? Food for thought.

Thanks for reading to here and I hope life's great,


About Bruce Mullan I am a Leadership Coach nurturing leadership excellence in health, aged care and NDIS. I integrate leadership strengths, agile disciplines and a coaching mindset to help leaders successfully navigate the growing complexity of our external world.