Defining a transformational future state

Developing a future state scenario for a business, team or even on a personal level, can be a challenging process and we tend to approach this task by initially referring to the current state.  Indeed Lewin’s work on organisational change would strongly advocate this to be the start point.  Whilst I would not disagree with this, I think we need to be cautious in the extent to which our review of the current state limits our horizons on creating the future state.

In such a case, we would develop the change proposition by defining the current state (A) then defining the future state (B) and then, quite naturally, planning the route from A to B with a focus on making this transition as seamless as possible.

Whilst there is good logic in this approach the usual experience is that the definition of B is constrained by the experience of A.  As we define B we do so with direct reference to A and so tend to create an ‘away from’ position for organisational or personal change as opposed to a ‘go to’ position.  An ‘away from’ position leads us inexorably to consider all that is wrong with the current state and create remediation measures.  The resultant logical incrementalism is useful but in my experience constrains really powerful creative thinking and transformational change.

A better approach is to understand A, ignore B as a remediation position, or incremental evolution position, and instead define the ideal future state.  This should be done with reference only to the question, “If everything was entirely in our gift what we create?”  The freedom of being able to think about our business is such unconstrained terms is empowering and very exciting.  I term the resultant position ‘D’, which is, by definition, more creative, more challenging and more future focused than ‘B’ ever would be.

Of course, D is an idealized position. We cannot control our destinies to that extent and so, having created D we need to run it through pragmatic filters so that we have a proposition that is achievable.  This filtering process is done from a future focus transition from ideality to reality but is, interestingly, still not constrained by our knowledge and experience of position A, current state.

The pragmatic filtering process, then, takes us back from D to position C.  I have yet to encounter a situation where position C is not further ahead than B, more challenging and beneficial than B, more exciting and inspiring than B, and delivers a more significant value proposition than B.

What we are doing is pushing the boundary and then resetting our definition of what is possible in a way which is free and liberated from the learned helplessness and conditioned limitations of our current state.