Refreshing a purposeful relationship with the future

A national science laboratory

The challenge: This organization has great power to affect the future, but in recent decades has mostly used this power to repeat what brought them past success. How might the whole organization come into purposeful relationship with the future, in both intent and operations? 

As leadership planned a one-year process for a return to intentful aspiration across the organization, they wanted to begin by involving everyone in bringing the conversation to life. To avoid the risk that these bright people would simply have a lot of ideas, fall in love with them, and fail to imagine in relationship with the society they serve, we adopted a “listen to the signals” framework for making a good beginning. The call was not for future ideas, but for a response to the question, “In light of what we are seeing, who do we need to become in order to participate in the emergence of a future we desire?” In collaboration with a sister firm in Europe, we hosted over 400 people through days of reacting to signals of possibility, model-making, imagination and dialogue. The result was a new set of driving questions, a portfolio of ideas, and a buzz of energy for the next phase of the work.

“The way we imagined together as a group of independent voices created a greater sense of democracy, inclusivity and equality in the process.”
– Leadership Center Director

“If we hadn’t done these activities, we would have kept on having the same conversations we always have. This was a wonderful way to open the conversation, surprise us with provocative new signals, encourage us to imagine in new ways, and spark new conversations about where we might go and why. We are excited to continue this process throughout the coming year.” – Associate Director