On generativity

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Today’s blog post is from another member of the Learning from Excellence team: Simon Blake @simonb143

Looking for the good things – for excellence, even – and reporting upon them within your everyday healthcare work might be regarded as a significant and positive shift in individual, team and organisational practice.  It is, as suggested in previous blog postings, aligned with a Safety II perspective which eschews amongst other things a sole focus upon the causes of errors.  But some might have reservations and decide to tread cautiously.  Whilst the Excellence Reporting innovation is attracting attention, being talked about and being discussed, couldn’t this be just another manifestation of the ‘turn to happiness’?  Happiness is everywhere.  Or, rather, happiness and wellbeing have become normalised as part of policy and practice in a wide variety of sectors, as well as in our everyday life.  And yet, the business press has recently been documenting what is being called a happiness backlash (See the Harvard Business Review July/August 2015 issue).  Too much unbridled positivity has infected society, and we need a healthy return to some good old-fashioned nay-saying, negative emotions and/or realism.

Of course, balance is likely to be required.  Each of these positions has its merits.  But this is only ‘all well and good’ if what is going on is construed as a clash between the dispositions which see cups as half full or half empty.  Instead, Excellence Reporting is actually part of a broader movement which draws upon positive psychological ideas such as appreciative inquiry.  Despite the explicitly ‘positive’ prefix, this is not about being blindly, always and everywhere happy and upbeat.  Rather, one of the most significant underpinning notions is generativity.  A bit of a mouthful, and bound to be laden with abstract theory?  Maybe.  But what it means for ‘frontline’ appreciative healthcare practice is an openness to working together to create new ways of understanding the everyday clinical work-as-done.  Your work.  Your good work.  Every day.

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