1. The essence of now-to-new is seeking to create that which generates abundant value for others.
Now-to-new work is focused on the end result — the outcome and subsequent value generation — rather than the means by which these aims will be accomplished.
Now stands for current reality, the situation in which we find ourselves right now.
to represents the means by which the desired result is accomplished.
new signifies the desired result.
There are two aspects to the ‘new’ part of now-to-new:
The new reality we wish to bring into existence.
The downstream value that can now be generated by virtue of this new reality..
2. Now-to-new indicates a reality change.
When the macro shift from Now to New has been accomplished, a new reality exists — one in which:
the problem cannot recur (problem solving), or
the almost-impossible has been achieved (surmounting), or
the new value generator exists and is generating downstream value (creating), or
the desired state of affairs obtains (change), or
value generation capability is greater than it was before (development), or
value generation capability is being fully deployed (utilisation).
3. Now-to-new is a useful collective noun.
Imagine a world where the word fruit doesn’t exist. People would have to say “apples, oranges, lemons, raspberries and so on.”
4. Now-to-new gives people a shared language.
Terminology matters. I’ve heard many people use such terms as innovation and change without any proper understanding of their meaning and with little appreciation of how they differ. In a meeting, we may all be talking about innovation but are we all talking about the same kind of work with the same kind of result?
5. The six types of now-to-new work are named using verbs rather than nouns, because nouns signify abstract concepts and verbs signify real-world action.
6. One type of now-to-new work is labelled creating, as this is a more inclusive term than innovating.
For example, I created this web page, but no one would describe it as an innovation. The same goes for books, songs, plays, movies, presentations, workshops, meals, and many other forms of creation.
7. Now-to-new enables the right intervention or programme of work to be designed.
When embarking on any kind of now-to-new project, the team’s first task should be identifying which of the six types of work is called for. Incorrect attribution at this stage could result in an ineffective intervention or programme of work. See for example the development vs. utilisation distinction below.
8. Now-to-new provides principles and practices for creating alone, creating together (notably Rich Co-creation), and helping others create.
Those who create alone, and I am such a person despite having been a vocal co-creation advocate for three decades, are being sidelined by some high profile collaboration evangelists (see here for example). In a future article we will explore the three modes — creating alone, creating together, and helping others create — in more detail.
9. Now-to-new is holistic, responsive, interactional and recursive.
HolisticThe now-to-new philosophy, principles and practices form an integrated whole, and now-to-new practitioners make sense of the world in a holistic way.
ResponsiveNow-to-new practitioners make plans, but they do not stick to them. Instead, they are constantly making adjustments, informed by feedback from the system-plus-environment.
InteractionalNow-to-new recognises the significance of the myriad interactions between people, and between people and enablers such as technology.
RecursiveEach now-to-new move is formed of smaller now-to-new moves, and is part of a larger now-to-new move.
Below are five examples of a macro shift from Now to New (far left of the graphic to far right), using the example of planning, designing, organising and hosting an Open Space meeting.+ What is an Open Space meeting?
From Now to New in one move
Many years ago, I was asked by Jon Whitcroft, founder of the Earth Spirit festival, to chair an annual general meeting of the festival organising group.
Earth Spirit had been held annually for 14 years but was on hold as a result of financial and logistical constraints. The AGM was to take place on a farm in Kent, UK with the aim of rebooting the festival, and the group would consist of around half a dozen people.
On arrival at the farm I was ushered into a barn where 20 or 30 adults and children were seated on straw bales, accompanied by assorted animals. This was not what I was expecting. I decided that Open Space was the only way to handle the situation, and got on with it. Everything happened very quickly and spontaneously.
NOW: I’m about to facilitate an Open Space meeting in which people will find a way of relaunching the Earth Spirit festival with minimal resources.
NEW: A plan for the relaunch exists, along with considerable enthusiasm for putting it into action.
Kaleidoscopic change is a type of change in which Now becomes New in a single move, like giving the barrel of a kaleidoscope a tiny nudge. The new pattern that appears is completely different from the old one, and there is no way of getting the old one back. If you’d like to explore this kind of change further, I strongly recommend Dr. James Wilk’s paper Kaleidoscopic Change (pdf).
From Now to New in two moves
In this imaginary scenario an intermediate stage is introduced.
NOW: I’m about to chair an AGM with six participants.
Jon and I arrive at the farm. Jon takes me to one side and says: “Jack, this is an unexpected situation. I thought there would be six people here, but word has got out and we now have a much larger group. So let’s make this an Open Space meeting in which people will address the question How can we relaunch Earth Spirit with minimal resources?”
New (1): I’m about to conduct an Open Space meeting with 30 participants. Jon and I discuss the practicalities and make the necessary preparations. We set the meeting in motion.
New (2): A plan for the relaunch exists, along with considerable enthusiasm for putting it into action.
Some now-to-new work — and probably more than you might imagine — can be completed in one or two moves.
This website is created using WordPress, and not only am I the author of the articles you see here; I am also the webmaster. As I type these words (now-to-new move #1) then hit the Update key (now-to-new move #2), the previous version of this web page instantly flips into the new one. There are no steps or stages — the change is immediate and, if I have done my job well, this version of the page has the potential to generate more value than the previous one.
From Now to New in five moves
We’re now getting closer to the more usual sequence of events when an Open Space meeting is being planned and hosted.
In this example, the first big Now to New — deciding the thematic question (“How can we relaunch EarthSpirit with minimal resources?”) — consists of three smaller now-to-new moves in series:
1. A briefing meeting.
2. An email.
3. A telephone conversation.
Each of the three pieces of work results in a new iteration of the thematic question.
From Now to New in multiple moves
Most Open Space meetings, unlike the Earth Spirit example I provided earlier, involve a whole load of planning, design and logistical activities, of which some happen sequentially and some in parallel.
10. Now-to-new makes a clear distinction between developing and utilising.
Credit: Robert C. JonesImagine a company that operates bus services. The company’s value generation capability could be expanded by buying more buses, or by replacing single decker buses with double deckers. In each case the company would be a undertaking a development project. Getting more people to use the existing bus fleet would be a utilisation project. We must be careful not to conflate development and utilisation.
Some now-to-new projects fall into both categories. Here’s one such case: The material excavated when boring the tunnels for Crossrail (now named the Elizabeth line) in the south of England was transported to the Essex coast to create a new wetland on Wallasea Island (see video). This was both a development project (increase the value generation potential of the land) and a utilisation one (generate maximum value from the excavated material). This is a fine distinction but an important one.