Emerging Realities

The world is getting more and more complex and agile. Knowing what the world is like in five years is an illusion. Being able to adapt to changing conditions is getting crucial for organizations. Especially when you want to plan ahead and stay ahead of the game. Especially, when planning programs that tend to run for a longer period of time, months, sometimes years, it is crucial to find an answer to the question “how do we cope with the future as it emerges?”. You cannot plan the whole program ahead. You need to find ways to plan the first part and design the program in a way that you can constantly adapt to the changes and new insights that you will find along the way.

This calls for a new way of thinking: Emerging Realities

Part one of probably two parts of lessons learned during the last DesignShop…

Lately, the concept of Emerging Reality manifested itself in a number of different situations while working. For one, I was working with a client preparing a DesignShop. They needed to set up an extremely large program, covering probably more than ten years. The hardest part was getting them out of a continuous thinking-loop

of “we need a plan > then we need a strategy > then we need a vision > we don’t know where we’re going yet > so we need a plan” etcetera. Because of the uncertainty of the client organization’s position in 5 years, they were stuck with their assignment to come up with a plan to achieve their to-be situation, which was of course vague. So, what to do?

I told them “rather then to keep on trying to find out wht the future holds for you so you can make a plan, why don’t you plan for uncertainty?”

Blank looks

“What if you try to get your program in such a shape, that you are able to continuously face challenges as they present themselves?”

Frowning but interested faces

So I explained that the central theme of the DesignShop would be Emerging Realities. We would have participants extensively sharing their individual visions of the future. We would find a time-horizon of which everybody would more or less agree on the emerged reality by that time. We would make sure that choices made for the plan towards that point in time would not exclude future realities that seemed probable. We would find a governance model that would allow for constant tuning with developments that would influence the future state of the organization. Based on that, we designed the SCAN and part of the FOCUS agenda and we started the DesignShop from there.

The funny thing is that a DesignShop is a very compressed form of an Emerging Reality. As the session proceeded, we had to face twists and turns we had or sometimes had not foreseen, and we needed to adapt our strategy and plan (session design) accordingly. It was a very rewarding process from both the session as (more importantly) the client’s perspective.

The group managed to mentally deal with the fact that there was no detailed to-be state. They had to let go of some very persisting patterns (elephant’s paths) for that. No more “we need to have more information before we can decide”. No more “let’s go for this plan, see ya in five years”. They came up with a very interesting governance model and process to manage themselves in their quest towards their Emerging Reality.

As a DesignShop team, we also got out with a number of insights. No matter how troublesome, difficult, inconvenient, even annoying, a DesignShop is an Emerging Reality.

Emerging Realities have a number of commonalities. You will know the outcome when it is there. You can guide, you can inspire, you can emotionally attach, but you wil have to let go to and trust the process to make it a really worthwile experience. A DesignShop that is tailored to this will provide a set of powerful solutions to deal with Emerging Realities.

Next Step: combine Lynne McTaggart’s The Field theory with Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and apply that to the Designhop concept


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