In the very early 1990s, I took a practitioner training in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) with Ian McDermott, the founder of International Teaching Seminars. The TOTE model shown in the next graphic was one of the many things I learnt during the course. It made a strong and lasting impression and was the main precursor of the now-to-new concept.
TOTE model originated by George Miller, Eugene Galanter and Karl Pribram in 1960.

“In 1960 [George] Miller, Eugene Galanter, and Karl Pribram proposed that stimulus-response (an isolated behavioral sequence used to assist research) be replaced by a different hypothesized behavioral sequence, which they called the TOTE (test, operate, test, exit). In the TOTE sequence a goal is first planned, and a test is performed to determine whether the goal has been accomplished. If it has not been accomplished, operations are performed to achieve the goal. The test is performed again, and exit occurs if the goal is achieved. Otherwise, the process repeats.”

Souce: Encyclopædia Britannica entry on George A. Miller.
I took the NLP practitioner training while making the transition from the world of marketing to the worlds of innovation and organisation development, which back then were very separate, each with its own language, practices and practitioners. The discipline of change management was in its infancy — Daryl Conner’s seminal book Managing at the speed of change first saw the light of day in 1993 — and organisational change work was in the hands of organisation development people.

In the OD world at that time there was much talk about making a change from current reality to the desired future state — a cumbersome and not wholly accurate expression given that what really needs to be created is the desired present. There’s much more I could say on this topic but I’ll save it for a future article.

Around the same time, I came across a copy of an in-house publication produced by Gemini Consulting, a high profile and influential change management firm that evolved into CapGemini. The authors of the publication didn’t use the terms current reality and desired future state. Instead, they talked about As-is and To-be. Today these terms are commonplace, but in 1992 they were freshly minted.

What happened next was more like a game than a deliberate attempt at coining new terminology. I wondered if four letters could be reduced to three. My first attempt yielded Got and Want: accurate labels, but a little too colloquial for the business world and still four letters in the second word. Then inspiration struck. Got became Now, Want became New, and here we are, some 30 years later.

Further reading

Now-to-new table of contents

Now-to-new glossary

The six main types of now-to-new work

Why is now-to-new a beneficial way of thinking, talking and working?