Competing futures

Whether in business or daily life, we are constantly comparing objective realities, based on facts (i.e.benchmarking); we also do similar for subjective realities, based on believes and judgements. Whether in business, economy or political domains, those realities are competing each other. Our present time is full of competing narratives and competing decisions. Competition is present in most of today narratives.

Whether in business or daily life, future time is thought to be a linear projection (or progression) of present time («tomorrow is one more day»). Barely we imagine competing futures. What would it take to imagine several futures while keeping a singular present? What would it take to imagine a plural future while understanding our present as consequence of chosen one of those futures? This approach challenges occidental mental model but might be relevant when referring to the common good. Awareness and responsability for next generations become quite important.

Today vision is embedded in future events

If the vision we had in the past is embedded in present events; then, the vision we have today should be embedded in future events. Subsequently, if today problems are a consequence of yesterday’s solutions, we could also say that today decisions, solutions and way of living will have an impact on tomorrow problems. 

Competing futures could be considered as an anticipatory process, as a systems awareness one, as a shared meaning process or as a team mastering one. 

Competing futures in agriculture

A group of SoL members and friends (30+ experts from 12 countries) are currently involved in a learning and collaborative ecosystem to contribute to sustainable agriculture and healthy food. Here are the three competing futures we are working on:

When referring to planet warming and sustainable agriculture, or to sustainable agriculture and healthy food, we naturally see three competing mental models:

  • Some people believe the future will be a continous growth: the efficient & consumption future match the escalation archetype or the success to the successful one.
  • Some people believe that, due to past visions and present events, the future will be more a collapse future, matching the limit to growth archetype and, depending on planet regions, matching the tragedy of the commons archetype. Today, this seems to be the case for Zimbawe agriculture and food system.
  • Some people believe that, in order to build a thrive future, we need to collaborate in present time to explore systemic possibilities rather that becoming accidental adversaries

Competing futures as learning and collaborative process

Competing futures systemic approach implies a sort of double way conversation guiding us towards a shared vision (see diagram):

Some rules of this team learning and collaborative process are as follows:

  • Competing futures can not emerge from a visionary individual but from a cocreation team.
  • Competing futures take into account some today market/social drivers evolution + some emergent future drivers + some potential disruptions (i.e. big data and precision agriculture).
  • None of these plausible narratives describe a present problem but a plausible consequence of present reality; some might express a reality emerging from a solution applied to a present problem.
  • From a team/ecosystem learning perspective, none of these narratives are fully true nor fully false. They are anticipatory narratives to help the team/ecosystem members creating shared meaning through generative dialogues.
  • The cocreation team creates meaning (emergent learning) and activates meaning (adaptive learning) while deploying initiatives. This is a sort of spiral process.
  • Competing futures are a consequence of a collaborative process. Even though each group member prefers one of this competing future compared to the other two. The group embraces diversity.
  • Competing futures help both the team and each member to raise awareness (individual) as well as to build consensus (team/ecosystem) about the present (now); awareness is not enough without team consensus.
  • In linear-continous time setting, our future time (after tomorrow) is a linear consequence of our present time; both, the present and the future are individualy driven. In complex-discontinous time setting, present time is a collective awareness after developping competing futures narratives and understanding connections between future and present. 

Please, let us know if would like to be involved on this collaborative ecosystem.