One can distinguish between the current futures of a system and its desired ideal future.
A current future comes about if the system carries on its current functioning, based on current thinking, habits, structures, governance and resources. Unless they are deliberately changed, they will perpetuate the status quo. They represent momentum, like the power of a fly-wheel.
Because the environment will change, the outcomes of current behaviour will not be the same. Depending on how it will change, different current futures could emerge. They are explored through forecasting.
A desiredfuture can be deliberately chosen by the system. It should be described as an ideal and therefore unattainable future state which can only be approximated. It inspires the system to continually move towards this state. It also gives rise to relevant interpretations of this state in the current context and prompts the design of goalposts and strategies along the way. As the environment changes, new goals and strategies can be formulated that are more suitable to the new environment. For example, the ideal of a fit and healthy body can inspire different, age appropriate goals and strategies as a person moves through different life stages.Audi’s ideal vision of leaping ahead through technology demands leap after leap, each with new goals and strategies inspired by technological advance.
Nature’s systems have evolved relatively fixed functioning. Therefore, the desirable future of a system is to restore it to this functioning (e.g. healing the body or keeping humanity’s impacts on the planet within sustainable limits). Social systems are not governed by laws of nature. Hence they need a deliberate formulation of the outcomes they want to achieve (e.g.a person’s ideal career or a society’s desired ideal finance system).
The future is determined by default or design. Either we deliberately design our future and work towards it, or we drift into a current future. Either way, we are responsible.
relevance for the change manager
Change management involves the exploration of current futures and their consequences. Undesirable futures are likely to motivate the system to change. Change management also facilitates the design of a desirable ideal future in alignment with its stakeholders and the development of strategies for co-creating a more desirable future. The loftier the ideal, the more the system will develop. Beware of mediocre ideals!