A Systems Learning Platform

November 16, 2014

Recently, I took a deep dive. I used a group of people that is dear to me as a council of wisdom, in relation to Future Searches. I wanted their help in answering a question that occurred to me, while preparing for them an introductory session about the power of Future Searches. The question was, whether a Future Search is a mystical meeting? And if so, how come? The answer dawned upon me a few days after meeting with them and can be summarized by the word ‘connection’.

Back in time

It’s been over two years now that somebody in the scientific community recommended me the Future Search methodology. Ever since, I’ve felt the urge to understand every bit about it, in order to support my intuition that this method has great power. Especially, when set-up in the right way and at the right moment.


I’ve had all kinds of ideas related to the source of this power, but it’s been only more recently that  the word mystical popped up when I asked myself this question. I learned about the word ‘mystical’ not so long ago. It is a ‘heavy word’ in the sense that it is associated with occult traditions or rituals and religious practices, and seems to have no connection to reality. But mystical  – when explained in a more secular way – is merely the occurrence of ‘a connection between our own individual force and a larger whole’. 


When realizing this, a second question popped up, namely, isn’t every meeting about this? Isn’t a meeting always about creating a connection between our individual force and the larger whole? The answer, of course, is no. Many, many meetings are about someone, somewhere in the system, wanting something, and demanding others to follow that through. Meetings can also be about someone – usually in a position of responsibility – wanting to be reassured; yes, we’re on track, don’t worry. We’ll do what’s needed.

Compared to these kind of meetings, a Future Search is special. A Future Search is designed to create ‘a connection between the individual force of participants and a larger whole’. Open Space and WorldCafé meetings, or Theory-U, share this goal and have similar effect. Any meeting that is designed for this connection to occur, potentially has this kind of power.

Still, I dare to say a Future Search has more power than the average meeting designed to create a connection between what participants want and a larger whole. I believe this is due to the elaborate preparatory process trying to define the ‘subject and scope’, the focus on physical presence of so many different stakeholders, the systemic structure of the meeting, the longitude of the meeting (2,5 days) and the use of particular facilitation techniques during the meeting (go around technique/the art of subgrouping / the process of creative visioning).

Not for sale

As a facilitator, the realization that this method can have so much power, proved a trap. For the last two years I tried to sell a Future Search as a solution for problems that I saw occur in specific systems. It didn’t work and I could not understand that on a physical, rational level. On a metaphysical level I now see clearly that it makes complete sense that a Future Search cannot be sold. Just like Janoff and Weisbord, creators of the method, already stated in their book, I know now that a Future Search can only be bought. This is because a Future Search can only occur, if a group of people really wants something in relation to the system they are part of. So, they must connect to their internal force first. If then, they hear about Future Search, and connect this method to their wish, a Future Search could occur. If they want it to occur.

Letting go

The realization that a Future Search has mystical power therefore strangely implies that I’ve decided to let it go. I will not try to push the usage of a Future Search anywhere, any longer. What I will do is connect to the needs of people that feel like changing the system that they’re part of. With that connection as a starting point , I know I’ll come up with better ways to support them than anything I’ve tried in the past. For due to the ingenious design of a Future Search and my efforts to understand its power, I feel like I have a great bag of knowledge at my disposal that I can use much more creatively. As long as the goal is, to connect individual force to a larger whole, by creating conditions that allow this to happen.

[1] Future Search: Getting the whole system in a room for Vision, Commitment, and Action