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What is a Generative Interview?

Many efforts to effect change in a system begin with conversations amongst people who have a stake in that system. Yet such interactions often fail to penetrate to the depth necessary to release latent forces for change.


At the heart of all of Generon’s processes is something we call the Generative Interview.


But what is a Generative Interview and how does it differ from the “traditional interview”?


Generative Interviews are a series of in-depth interviews conducted with a critical mass of key formal and informal players from different parts of a system who have the capacity to understand and influence that system. This process is an iterative process – where the person you interview leads you to another – uncovering what wants to emerge — drawing out the highest purpose of the undertaking.


The purpose of Generative Interviews is to get a project started by strengthening the connections of key stakeholders to the system’s current reality and potential, to each other, and to the sources of their own commitments to effecting change. Generative Interviews are not simply to gather information; they are not simply objective diagnostic or data-collecting activities. This is a point which is very often misunderstood. Rather, Generative Interviews evoke curiosity, commitment and excitement about the potential for the overall undertaking and relationships are built. In short, these interviews are generative interventions in and of themselves.


Interviews begin with interviewees sharing their life story, and with your guidance, linking that story to their current commitment and deepest questions about the project at hand. This is where people become enrolled, as they are drawn to the conversation you are having with them – they are drawn to your presence – along with the idea and the potential of the project. In this connection, this is why it is vitally important for you – as the interviewer – to have a daily mindfulness practice such as meditation – as a way to be centered and attuned to the “field” you are co-creating.


When done correctly, the experience of a Generative Interview is that there is a sense of shared fundamental intention between you and the interviewee regardless of whether or not there may be divergent opinions about what should be done about a particular issue. A field starts to be created, forming part of the essential initial conditions for the project – raising the quality of thinking and relating in the system. These interviews are the first steps toward creating access to the field that will enable the change process.

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