I use certain terms in a particular way, and sometimes it’s necessary to invent new terms when existing ones are inadequate. The aim of this glossary is to make my intended meanings clear. Terms I devised are indicated with this symbol: §. I hope you will find the glossary interesting and useful.
Something that exists only as an idea; a construct; an “imperfectly defined explanatory notion” – Gregory Bateson, Steps to an Ecology of Mind (pdf) page 5; a nominalisation (a verb converted into a noun).


Abstractions and corresponding actions

A disaffected former customer or non-customer who does not trust a particular organisation. Whether ‘fair’ or not, the grievances of anti-clients are real to them. Anti-clients may actively promote lack of trust in the organisation via their social networks and other channels. Anti-client is a term originated by Tom Graves, author of How anti-clients happen (and what to do about it).

Anti-value §
The degenerative counterpart of value. Anti-value is more than dissatisfaction. It manifests as an experience of physical pain or emotional upset arising from a poorly designed or malfunctioning value generator, or from the denial of previously received and possibly taken for granted value.

If goodwill is an asset, then badwill is a liability. Badwill comes about when customers or other benefit set members make public their experience of anti-value generated by the enterprise. Badwill can play out in the form of decreased revenue, loss of clients or suppliers, loss of market share, or damaged reputation—sometimes so great that it brings about the demise of the enterprise.

A person or enterprise gaining value by virtue of an enterprise’s existence, its activities or the value generators it produces.

Beneficiary set, beneficiary groups and beneficiaries

Beneficiary group
A cluster of entities that gain value from an enterprise in the same way.

Specify the value to be generated by the now-to-new project

Beneficiary set §
The complete set of beneficiary groups for a given enterprise. Previously referred to as enterprise ecosystem and stakeholder system.

See Value generation capability.

Co-creation meeting §
A collaborative gathering taking place over half a day, an entire day or several days, and usually forming part of a broader organisational change or innovation programme.

+ Read more
A co-creation meeting brings together diverse stakeholders, often in large numbers (the upper limit is constrained only by the venue capacity) and with widely-differing agendas and perspectives, to discuss issues of heartfelt concern, share ideas, pool knowledge, explore possibilities and devise plans for sustained collaborative action. Co-creation meetings are known by various other names including large group interventions, large-scale events and ‘whole system in the room’ events. The three main types of co-creation meeting are Type 1 (pre-planned, facilitator-led, outcome focused, everyone together), Type 2 (impromptu, unfacilitated, freewheeling, fragmented), and Type 3 (Types 1 and 2 in sequence, typically T1 > T2 > T1 or T1 > T2 > T1 > T2 > T1).

The three main types of co-creation meeting

Read more about co-creation meetings

A fully-formed idea or set of ideas.

In its degenerative form, control is a way of seeking to determine, influence or accomplish outcomes by domination, manipulation, coercion, violence, or similar means. In its generative form, control is an enabling act or system aimed at generating beneficial outcomes or preventing harmful outcomes (e.g. air traffic control). See also Power.

Create vs. generate
I use each of these words in a particular way. An enterprise creates value generators (such as products and services). An enterprise cannot create value. It can only create value generators, or ‘value propositions’ as some academics would have it. A value generator generates value when the beneficiary interacts with it. See graphic here.

Creative power
The innate (see George Land, 1968) ability to manifest that which generates value. The creation could be anything from a conversation or a glossary to a cathedral or a space rocket. See also Power.

Aimed at generating anti-value, inhibiting or limiting value generation, or nullifying generated value.

Distant from the source. Happening later in a sequence of activities. See also Upstream.

Upstream and downstream

Enterprise ecosystem §
I no longer use this term. I now refer to the beneficiary set.

Trusting acceptance.

“Faith is a critical but curious mind’s readiness to adopt a reality model (even if provisionally) for which there is less than absolute, empirical proof.”

Jay Gaskill, The Dialogic Imperative.
A distinctive combination of elements, notably principles, room arrangement, process or sequenced processes, and manner of facilitation, enabling meeting participants to achieve their desired outcomes. Examples: Open Space Technology, Knowledge Café, Scrum daily stand-up.

Functional value
The kind of value you only notice when it’s absent. “Salt is what makes potatoes taste funny when you forget to put it in” (Anthony Rumgay). You rarely experience functional value — you only experience the anti-value that’s generated when functional value is missing.

Generate vs. create
See Create vs. generate.

Aimed at generating significant value. Seeking to create that which improves people’s lives and makes the world a better place. World-enriching. There are two levels of generative action. Level 1 is concerned with generating value for others (“give a man a fish”). Level 2 is concerned with creating that which generates value for others (“teach a man to fish”).

Generative enterprise
1. An organisational philosophy and accompanying Rich Co-creation theories and practices that enable a business or nonprofit organisation to animate its intent moment by moment and generate the greatest amount of value for the greatest number of beneficiaries.
2. A business or nonprofit organisation that has adopted the Generative Enterprise philosophy and accompanying theories and practices.
3. A way of doing business, focused on generating widespread value.

The tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution. Source: Jan Smuts, who originated the term in his 1926 book Holism and Evolution.

“In psychology, holism is an approach to understanding the human mind and behavior that focuses on looking at things as a whole. It is often contrasted with reductionism, which instead tries to break things down into their smallest parts.

Holism suggests that people are more than simply the sum of their parts. In order to understand how people think, holism suggests that you need to do more than simply focus on how each individual component functions in isolation. Instead, psychologists who take this approach believe that it is more important to look at how all the parts work together.”

Source: Verywell Mind.

“Holistic thinking is the new way of thinking needed to (dis)solve the problems created by reductionist thinking. But we should not over-swing the pendulum and favour holistic thinking in all circumstances over reductionist thinking. We should regard reductionism as a useful method to be applied if and when appropriate and within a whole-systems context that acknowledges the valuable contributions of diverse perspectives, as well as the limits to our knowing. We might prefer definitive answers and solutions, but what if they simply cannot be given?”

Source: From the ‘crisis of perception’ to the ‘systems view of life’ by Daniel Christian Wahl.
See also Reductionism; Wholeness.

A heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way and utilise value generation potential to the full. Find out why I now talk about intent rather than purpose.

A shrewdly-designed action or set of actions taken in order to bring about a shift from now (the current state of affairs) to new (the desired state).

Knowledge Café
A Knowledge Café (a.k.a. Gurteen Knowledge Café) is a meeting format and a type of meeting that enables rich and rewarding conversation on a topic of mutual interest. Knowledge Café participants explore the topic, share knowledge, glean insights, surface ideas and opportunities, experience new ways of thinking, strengthen relationships, and form new connections. The originator of the format is David Gurteen, an influential practitioner working in the areas of knowledge management and conversational leadership.

Max4 principle §
A reference to the discovery made by various researchers that the maximum group size for a proper conversation is four people. Read more

“That which makes life and work truly worthwhile.” Source: Edward Matchett. Meaning is a form of value.

Meta generator §
A meta generator 1 is a producer of value generators (products, services etc.) — typically an enterprise. A meta generator 2 is a producer of meta generators, such as an entrepreneur. See graphic here.

Microcosm of the enterprise
A participant population formed of one or more people representing each function / hierarchical level intersection..

Microcosm of the enterprise

The graphic shows a microcosm formed of 22 people.

An enterprise-wide programme of work that converts strategy into action. Here, the term is borrowed from the field of space exploration. It is not a synonym for vision or purpose, and it is not about mission statements. Each successive mission has the aim of manifesting intent more fully. A mission consists of a mission objective and a suite of projects aimed at meeting the objective by a specified date. In some cases, the mission will be formed of two or more sub-missions, each composed of a set of projects.

Now-to-new §
A shift from the present situation to what is needed instead, such that value is generated, or anti-value generation is halted, or value generation capability is expanded, or it is restored. The six main types of now-to-new work are problem solving, surmounting, changing, creating (previously named innovation), developing (expanding value generation capability), and utilising (making full use of existing value generation capability).

The six main types of now-to-new work

Open Space meeting
An Open Space meeting (Open Space conference, Open Space meeting, Open Space gathering, type 2 co-creation meeting) is a participant-led gathering in which 10, 50, 100, 500 or more people establish shared intent, discuss matters of heartfelt concern, pool knowledge, conceive ideas, reach agreement on the best way forward, and make preparations for sustained collaborative action. Participants create their own programme of self-managed sessions (e.g. discussion groups, experiential workshops, ideas sessions, planning meetings) in response to a thematic question such as: The future of the XYZ Corporation: What are the issues and opportunities?

From its introduction in 1985 until 1989, Open Space was simply the format employed for the annual gatherings of the global organization transformation (OT) community. Open Space then broke free from the OT mothership and was used as an organisational intervention for the first time, with the chemicals company DuPont. That same year, the format became known as Open Space Technology.

Open Space Technology
The format of an Open Space meeting.

+ Harrison Owen reveals how Open Space became Open Space Technology
“As it happened, one of your compatriots, Ronnie Lessem, had written a book called Principles of Global Management. The book featured the work of four characters including Peter Drucker and yours truly. My work was the last section with the awesome title, Metaphysical Management. My Indian colleague, in introducing me to a business press gathering in Bombay, ended by saying that Harrison Owen is the inventor of Open Space Technology (he added “technology”) and practitioner of Metaphysical Management. He then turned to me and said – Harrison, please explain what all this means. The next morning there were a series of stories – all a little weird – with Open Space Technology prominent in the title. And it stuck.”

Source: Private correspondence, 7 March 2008

The capability of doing or accomplishing something. Source: Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary via The Free Dictionary. See also Control; Creative power.

I no longer use the term purpose in the sense of why an enterprise exists. As management cybernetician Stafford Beer pointed out, “the purpose of a system is what it does”. This is often abbreviated to POSIWID. The purpose of a can of WD40 is whatever you decide to do with it on any given occasion. Harish Jose asserts that “the purpose of a thing is to fulfill its potential” (view source). For these and other reasons (see here, for example), I talk about intent, by which I mean a heartfelt desire to enrich the world in a particular way and utilise value generation potential to the full.

An attempt or tendency to explain a complex set of facts, entities, phenomena, or structures by another, simpler set. Source: American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. The antithesis of reductionism is holism.

Rich Co-creation §
A set of principles and practices employed in projects where diverse beneficiaries work together on an equal footing, from start to finish, in order to bring forth a mutually beneficial result. This could mean eliminating a tough problem, bringing about a desired change, creating something new, or utilising value generation potential more fully. Rich Co-creation is the principal means by which a generative enterprise gets things done, animates its strategy and manifests its intent. The ‘rich’ prefix indicates that this form of co-creation is full-bodied and capable of generating significant downstream value.

See beneficiary.

Strategy is “a cohesive response to an important challenge.” Source: Richard Rumelt, author of Good Strategy Bad Strategy. In a generative enterprise, the overriding and persistent challenge is the manifestation of intent. Strategy is not a laundry list of objectives or a detailed master plan, but a pithy statement describing in the broadest of terms how the constraints to intent manifestation will be surmounted.


“System is illusory. All systems we fancy we observe in nature are merely constructions of the observer, and the ‘interconnected web’ or ‘system’ view of the universe is no more than a fairy tale.”

Source: James Wilk, unpublished manuscript.

Closer to the source. Happening earlier in a sequence of activities. See also Downstream.

Upstream and downstream

Benefit. The three main forms of value are economic value, conceptual value and experienced value. I mostly talk about experienced value. Value is not ‘delivered’, as if by FedEx. It is co-created through the interaction between the beneficiary (e.g. consumer or user) and the value generator. See Wikipedia: Service-dominant logic. Value is a unifying principle: the red thread that unites intent, strategy, mission, project work, capability expansion, and other business fundamentals.

Value for customers means that after they have been assisted by a self-service process (cooking a meal or withdrawing cash from an ATM) or a full-service process (eating out at a restaurant or withdrawing cash over the counter in a bank) they are or feel better off than before.

Source: Service logic revisited: who creates value? And who co-creates? by Christian Grönroos, a Professor of Service and Relationship Marketing at Hanken Swedish School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland.
Value advocate §
Someone who speaks on behalf of the downstream value that will be generated by an intervention, course of action or value generator. The voice of value in a relationship, group or enterprise.

Value for all
The greatest amount of value for the greatest number of beneficiaries. Much of my work is founded on the hypothesis that when an enterprise is focused on generating value for all, it enriches itself, its employees and its shareholders as a natural consequence (all things being equal).

Value generation capability
Latent power currently available to an individual, group or enterprise for creating the new and realising the value generation potential of the new creation.

Recommended reading: How capabilities can unleash business performance, by John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Maggie Wooll, on Deloitte Insights.

Value generation potential
The total amount of value a value generator or meta generator (an enterprise, for example) could be generating. “The difference between capability and potential is that capability is the power or ability to generate an outcome while potential is currently unrealised ability” (source: WikiDiff). “Capability to do what now, versus potential to do what in the future” (source: Richard Mackinnon on SlideShare).

Value generator §
Something tangible (a product, device or other artefact) or intangible (such as a service or a piece of music) that produces experienced value when the user interacts with it.

How value is generated

Vision / vision of realised potential §
A depiction — an actual picture accompanied by vivid explanatory text — of how the world will look, sound and feel when the enterprise is fully utilising its value generation potential and manifesting its intent.

Widespread value
Another way of saying value for all.

Whole system
A way of thinking and acting that takes into account the realities, perspectives and value requirements of all relevant beneficiary groups.

“An undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.” Source: The Free Dictionary. Wholeness is all-encompassing, transcending the dualistic nature of mundane reality, and cannot be reduced to parts (see Holism).


“We can reduce the world to a whole just as easily as we can reduce it to a collection of parts.”

Source: [6 Key Questions in] Whole Systems Thinking, by Daniel Christian Wahl.
Towards wholeness

Seeking to generate significant value for customers or users, other beneficiaries and wider society.

An individual’s set of fundamental beliefs and organising principles; his or her unquestioned assumptions about the nature of reality and the human place in it. A worldview is like the operating system in a computer, controlling operations behind the scenes but mostly outside the user’s awareness. When someone upgrades his or her worldview, certain things that were previously impossible become possible, and some things that were difficult become easy. Generally, a new worldview does not replace the old one, but subsumes it.

Evolution of worldviews, by Jack Martin Leith

Further reading

Now-to-new table of contents

How the now-to-new concept came into being

The six main types of now-to-new work

Why is now-to-new a beneficial way of thinking, talking and working?