In postgraduate medical education, required competencies are described in detail in existing competency frameworks. This study proposes an alternative strategy for competency-based medical education design, which is supported by change management theories. We demonstrate the value of allowing room for re-invention and creative adaptation of innovations. This new strategy was explored for the development of a new generic competency framework for a harmonised European curriculum in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The generic competency framework was developed through action research. Data were collected by four European stakeholder groups (patients, nurses, midwives and hospital boards), using a variety of methods. Subsequently, the data were analysed further in consensus discussions with European specialists and trainees in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. These discussions ensured that the framework provides guidance, is specialty-specific, and that implementation in all European countries could be feasible. The presented generic competency framework identifies four domains: ‘Patient-centred care’, ‘Teamwork’, ‘System-based practice’ and ‘Personal and professional development’. For each of these four domains, guiding competencies were defined. The new generic competency framework is supported by European specialists and trainees in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as well as by their European stakeholders. According to change management theories, it seems vital to allow room for re-invention and creative adaptation of the competency framework by medical professionals. Therefore, the generic competency framework offers guidance rather than prescription. The presented strategy for competency framework development offers leads for implementation of competency-based medical education as well as for development of innovations in postgraduate medical education in general.