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Research Seminar - Path enactment: A situated view on how actors develop a course of action toward distant-future goals

Hybrid research seminar delivered by Miriam Feuls

Event details

Distant futures and the implications of distant-future goals are taking on crucial importance given grand challenges such as climate change. In this talk, I will discuss a situated view of time and how such a view may inform our understanding of how actors act upon distant-future goals, exemplified by climate goals. I will share insights from a paper with Tor Hernes and Majken Schultz, currently under review, and from the work we pursue within the Actionable Futures project at CBS.

Prior research has shown that one of the most significant challenges in acting upon distant-future goals lies in sustaining a course of action toward distant-future goals with many solutions yet to be in existence. Drawing on a real-time study of a sustainability workstream’s efforts to develop an initial sustainability strategy, we found that actors combined existing and imagined solutions into paths as potentialities that they eventually settled on and inscribed into a cohesive strategy. We conceptualize this process as “path enactment.” We note that through the mechanisms of bracketing, narrating, and calculating, emerging paths become actualized in an iterative process of path imagination, path integration, and path stretching. Based on our findings, we develop a process model that consolidates how emerging paths become increasingly extended toward distant-future goals, creating a template for action to direct choice and development of future solutions. Our model contributes to theories of organizational future-making in general and, in particular, future-making in the context of grand challenges such as climate change, as we (1) shift the focus to solutions and show how the interweaving of existing and imagined solutions forges different paths toward distant future goals and (2) demonstrate a "disciplined" approach to imagination that reconciles action-oriented and cognition-oriented approaches, moving from the immediate to an as-if reality to the distant future.

Miriam Feuls is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Organization and Co-Director of the Centre for Organization and Time. Drawing on insights from organizational studies, process research, and cultural and social sciences, her research focuses on organizational change and transformation processes. Her work explores time and temporality, creativity and innovation, and environmental and social sustainability in various contexts. Currently, she is involved in the Actionable Futures project, funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, which examines how large companies are transitioning to green and sustainable futures, putting distant futures into action. Her work has been published in Work, Employment & Society, Creativity and Innovation Management, The Journal of Creative Behavior, and Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, among others. She serves on the editorial board of Creativity and Innovation Management.

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