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Transformative Hope – Collective Images of the Future


pdf Transformative Hope and Collective Images of the Future.pdf


Rowena Morrow




The purpose of this piece is to explain how of a number of concepts have been integrated into a construct called ‘Transformative Hope’. Hope is a concept which is central to human existence. It is large and inspirational enough to make people want to survive hell on earth, such as concentration camps, and small and pragmatic enough to be used in an individualistic sense, as in ‘I hope I can find a car park’. To talk about hope and the future is to bring a positive, proactive stance to human development and action. Rather than a ‘lets wait and see’ attitude, we can focus on a mechanism which can assist people to be driven to ‘let’s do it’.


The need for Transformative Hope is reflected in the presumption that, in general, the world is becoming worse place to exist rather than a better one; that our children will not have the same opportunities that our generation has enjoyed. Environmental changes; wealth differentials; levels of depression and suicide; instances of corporate misbehaviour; and reduction in the strength of social contracts, to name but a few, leading to the extrapolation of either a dystopian future view in the tradition of Blade Runner or The Matrix; or an optimistic ‘technology will save us’, trans-humanist perspective. Many people are caught up in such a vision and are expressing their frustration and anxiety through avoidance behaviours such as aspirational consumption, or are spiralling into depression.


Some people, however, are embracing a more positive vision of what is possible, one which makes the moral and values base of futures images explicit and empowers individuals to act in a manner which enhances the collective good. A combination of foresight capacity, shared images of the future and Hope Theory has the transformational capacity to move organisations, and the people within them, to an active empowered construction of their preferred future state. This view is based on the positive organisational behaviour movement; positive psychology; appreciative inquiry; and Futures Studies.


The rising levels of complexity and uncertainty in the globalised world of business make a view of the future, whether positive or negative, vital for organisational survival. It is the capacity to see wider, deeper, and further which will deliver competitive advantage (of whatever type) to profit makers, but is also of prime importance to other organisational types. Having the capacity to leverage the potential of human capital within an organisational context is the only non-replicable competitive strength available to businesses. In a capitalist world, it is the tacit knowledge that adds value and never more so than in an entrepreneurial knowledge economy.


The focus of this piece is specifically on organisations, and the individuals that comprise them. The reasons for this are two fold: first is the predominance of organisations as the expression of collective activity in capitalist societies; the second, is that for the foreseeable future capitalism will continue to be the driving force for the majority of the world’s population and if changes need to be made, it is in this situation. This is premised on the assumption that if we can change the way the organisations work, and the basis of their interactions with the world, then changes will also occur in the greater collective (societal) level as well.


Bloom (2005) persuasively argued recently that capitalism that is “propelled by a troika of empathy, passion and reason” (p46) could work wonders where other theories have failed. He argues that capitalism has done what no other system has come close to achieving; the ‘uplifting’ of the middle class. This is an achievement usually barely mentioned, however, though “none has ever done so much to elevate, empower and create a brand new category of humanity.” (p46) His thesis is that having re-invigorated the creativity and innovation in organisations in the Western world, we could then set them to transforming the Western world to one which embraces “the most creative and potentially idealistic bio-engine this planet has ever seen.” (p44) Rather than trying to replace the system, get under its skin in order to re-perceive and re-invent it into something that we want.


The scholarship paradigms that the Transformative Hope construct sits is the scholarship of integration (synthesis), one of four identified by Boyer (1990 in Ghoshal 2005). The other three were: the scholarship of discover (research); the scholarship of practice (application); and the scholarship of teaching (pedagogy). (p82) Transformative Hope is using an integration of approaches and applications from aligned scholarship traditions to test the efficacy of using shared images of the future and Hope Theory to transform organisational performance. This integration culminates in a proposed research design for testing whether the theory can illuminate some of the ways in which people enact their preferred futures in organisations.


Positive Organisational Behaviour


Much of the thinking around concepts of hope and organisations comes out of the positive psychology movement instigated by Martin Seligman in the late 1990’s. It emerged due to the perceived lack of focus on the positive characteristics of people rather than what may be ‘wrong’ with them. A computer search cited by Luthans (2002b) found a preponderance of articles outlining the negative side, around 200,000 but only 1,000 which focussed on positive concepts and capabilities of people. (p696) This focus is especially interesting when one considers that this move to the positive had been heralded by Maslow in 1954 when he proposed research into topics such as love, optimism and actualization of potential. (Wright 2003, p437) Although this focus on disease had been useful to a point, Seligman argued “that the progress had come at some significant costs. It neglected human strengths and ignored what could go right with people”. (in Ghoshal 2005, p85) Thus a focus on hope, optimism, joy and fulfilment began to take root.


This positive psychology movement was used as the starting point by Fred Luthans (2002a) when he defined a new branch of organisational behaviour – Positive Organisational Behaviour or POB. This discipline uses the findings of the positive psychology movement, which are individually based, and applies them to collectives. POB is defined as “the study and application of positively oriented human resource strengths and psychological capacities that can be measured, developed and effectively managed for performance improvement in today’s workplace”. (p59) It includes the psychological constructs of self-efficacy, hope, optimism, well-being, and emotional intelligence; and attempts to apply them to the development and performance of management and employees.


Luthans (2002b) identifies Hope as “the most unique POB capacity” (p699), as it is active in a dispositional (trait) sense but also as a state. Hope is included in POB because the level of Hope held by a person can influenced by interventions, and it has been related to employee performance and leadership effectiveness. It is for these reasons that he suggests further research and application of the concept. (p699) Jensen and Luthans (2002), and Peterson and Luthans (2002) have undertaken some research into this area which is discussed below.


The elements of Transformative Hope


Figure One: Elements of Transformative Hope (adapted from Snyder 2002)


Hope Theory


Hope theory can be summarised as having three equally important aspects: agency (willpower), pathways (waypower) and goals. Hope reflects the capacity of an individual to conceptualise goals, develop pathways to achieve these goals; and initiate and sustain the motivation required to achieve them. (Snyder et al 2003) This theory is illustrated, along with the interaction of moral action theory and images of the future, in Figure One.


Hope Theory works in the following manner. Firstly, there are pre-existing levels of willpower and waypower due to previous experiences, these have some emotional affect. During the pre-event phase the outcome value of the goal is determined. This relative importance will influence the amount of mental attention expended and will activate the pre-event analysis phase.(Snyder 2002, p253) There is then a three way iterative process between pathway thoughts (waypower), agency thoughts (willpower) and outcome value. At some point during these iterations, there is a check back to the perceived outcome value, if the amount of effort being expended does not match the perceived value of the goal, the individual ceases cognitive processing of that goal.


Once the goal pursuit has began, feedback loops begin to develop through the process of pathways and agency thinking. As the process moves forward, goal directed cognitions are eliciting the particular emotions, and those emotions are in turn shaping and informing the cognitions of the person who is in the throes of goal pursuit. (p254) During the process a surprise event may take place and the reactions to this will be different dependent on the level of hope. In addition, there may also occur a stressor, this represents any “impediment of sufficient magnitude to jeopardize hopeful thought.” (p254) Once the stressor has been dealt with, or if no stressor appeared, then “pathways and agency thoughts should continue to alternate (as shown in the bidirectional arrows) and aggregate through the event sequence”. (p255) Having attained (or not) the goal which was pursued, emotional energy (positive or negative) will flow back through the process to inform the next pursuit.


Having a high hope score has been shown to positively affect health, athletic outcomes, college scores, and better psychological adjustment, amongst others things. (Snyder et al 2002; Snyder 2002) Hope correlates with many other psychological concepts such as optimism, self-efficacy, self-esteem and problem solving ability (Snyder 2002). However, whereas many of these are in the present time, Hope has a strong future orientation “as a positive future is made more likely by goal directed thoughts and actions occurring in the present moment”. (Shorey et al 2002, p326) Satterfield (in Braithwaite 2003) argues that Hope is “most adaptive when combined with integrative complexity, that is, the capacity to contemplate the complexity of problems, seeing them from multiple perspectives.”(p7)


As a psychological concept, hope theory is value neutral, as an individual’s values are expressed through the held goal rather than the cognitive and emotional construct. It is a learned thinking pattern which “should have manifestations in overt behaviours that can be objectively observed”. (Shorey et al 2002, p323) There are two types of goal outcomes that can be held: positive goal outcomes and negative goal outcomes. Positive goals can be envisioned for the first time; pertain to the sustaining of a present goal; or be the desire for a further goal once one goal has been achieved. Negative goal outcomes are about forestalling or delaying a negative event. (Snyder 2002, p250) Snyder suggests that there are various types of Hope – repair Hope, goals held to repair a void in someone’s life; maintenance goals, or those that are part of daily living; and enhancement goals, the big hairy audacious goals that have moved humans throughout history. (p250)


In addition to the differences in goals held, there are also three levels of Hope: global or trait Hope; domain-specific Hope; and goal-specific Hope. (Snyder, Feldman et al 2002) Global Hope is a dispositional measure and evaluates an individual’s belief about achieving goals in a general sense. Domain-specific Hope measures the situational Hope state in contexts such as social, academic and family. Goal-specific Hope, or State Hope scale, measures Hope in relation to a particular goal at a particular time. (pp299-300) It is possible to have reported Hope scores which are different at the three levels of abstraction. Thus young people could be low Hope in a general, global sense, but have very high Hope in a situational context.


In the POB arena there have been some moves towards testing the Theory of Hope in an organisational setting. Peterson and Luthans (2002) undertook research in a chain of fast food restaurants to evaluate the impact of a manager’s Hope score on his/her direct reports and work unit profitability. They measured the State Hope score of the manager prior to the monthly results for each work unit being released. At the same time, they asked the manager’s sub-ordinates to complete a job satisfaction survey. The results of the research showed that managers with high Hope scores reported better work unit results, and their subordinates reported higher satisfaction measures as well. In addition, those managers with higher Hope scores had better staff retention than their low Hope counterparts.


Jensen and Luthans (2002) undertook some exploratory research into entrepreneurship and Hope. They wanted to evaluate the following propositions:


1. Hope levels can be used to distinguish between individuals who currently own or desire to own a business from those who express no interest in entrepreneurship.
2. Training interventions can enhance the Hope levels of entrepreneurs.
3. Entrepreneurs who posses higher Hope levels experience greater satisfaction and success with business ownership. (p1698)


They make the point that entrepreneurship, as an area of study, has traditionally focussed on what is ‘wrong’ with entrepreneurs and how to fix their weaknesses, rather than on what they do ‘right’. (p1698) As in the positive psychology and organisational behaviour movements, they wanted to bring a new view to the entrepreneurship area.


The design of the research was based on a sample of individuals who were currently business owners, or expressed an interest in starting a business within 12 months. All participants took part in an eight hour training session, before and after which, they were asked to complete the Dispositional and State Hope Scales and items which related to their entrepreneurial experience and demographic questions. These scores were compared to a group of students in a business management course at a University, who were given the same instrument. What they found was:


1. Hope levels do distinguish entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs from others.
2. Hope levels were impacted by the training intervention.
3. Expressed business satisfaction is greater for entrepreneurs with high Hope levels.


Given the small sample sizes, thirty five in the first sample and seventy in the second, care must be taken when extrapolating results. There was, however, a statistical correlation in the levels of Hope reported and levels of entrepreneurship. The authors suggest that “research of the Hope construct may enhance our understanding of the entrepreneurial process by identifying individuals who may be better equipped to handle the rigours of business ownership”. (p1700) It may also point to the relevant interventions in training and assisting entrepreneurs, to ensure that their willpower and waypower are supported and developed.


A critique of Hope theory rests upon the theory’s assumption of personal mastery of the world around us. There is little discussion of how individual goal setting and Hope levels impact in a collective sense, except where Snyder states that Hope theory itself is value free and that it is the set goals that may be anti-social. (Snyder 2003, Snyder et al 2002, Snyder 2002) However, he says “the overwhelming majority of citizens are brought up so as to pursue goals that reflect the positive, accepted standards for society”. (Snyder 2002, p267) One could argue that this does not go far enough in a collective sense, that the setting of goals in this setting requires explicit discussion of the values which underpin them. A theory of Collective Hope would require a mechanism to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise from competing hopes. (Braithwaite 2003, p10)


Images of the future


When used in this context, images of the future are essentially the manifestation of our expectation that transformation is possible. Creating a vision, be it as an individual or organisation, taps into the deepest desires of the people involved and allows them to express how they wish the world to be. Polak (1973) argues that using images of the future as guides for present behaviour is a very old human practice. “Once he (man) became conscious of creating images of the future, he became a participant in the process of creating this future”. (p6)


Holding clear images of the future is also one way in which fear and trepidation about complexity can be minimised. The fear and anxiety held about the future by individuals is mitigated through development of futures images, whether they come true or not, and they allow clear decisions to be taken in the present which otherwise may seem fraught with difficulties – the future is a playground in which the boundaries of the present loosen and creativity abounds.


This ‘planning’ through imagination appears to be an innate human trait. Ingavr (in McKiernan and McKay, 2002) argues “that people instinctively and constantly develop alternative plans for the future…It is only by access to serial plans for future behaviour and cognition, i.e. access to ‘our memory of the future”, that we can select and perceive meaningful messages”. (p5) It may be for this reason that most people find the process of imagining the future to be pleasurable and energising.


Patalono (2003), using Kenneth Boulding’s work on image as a base, suggests that imagery is important because “it enables collective sharing of values and meanings…it has cohesive power, which may acquire a strategic value tin organisations and in cooperative interactions”. (p8) Thus it is not the ‘image’ per se which is of value, rather the expressed values and meaning contained within it. Polak (1973) argues that it is the “values, means and ends” that drive this process in current societies; mean that we now “stagger under the double load of not only having to construct (his) own future but having to create the values that will determine its design”. (p9)


David Cooperrider (2001) argues that “the artful creation of positive imagery on a collective basis may well be the most prolific activity that individuals and organisations can engage in if their aim is to help bring to fruition a positive and humanely significant future.” (p2) Cooperrider’s work forms the basis of Appreciative Inquiry, discussed below, which uses a four step process, one part of which is to imagine ‘what could be’. Drawing on sources such as Polak, he uses the heliotropic hypothesis to explain why human systems evolve towards the most ‘positive’ image.


Organisational actions have an observable and largely automatic tendency to evolve in the direction of positive imagery….Hence, it can be argued that positive images of the future generate in organizations (1) an affirmative cognitive ecology that strengthens peoples’ readiness and capacity to recall the positive aspects of the past, to selectively see the positive in the present, and to envision new potentials in the future; (2) it catalyzes an affirmative emotional climate, for example, of heightened optimism, hope, care, joy, altruism, and passion; and (3) it provokes confident and energized action.(p14)


Moral basis of preferred futures


Wendell Bell (2003) states that “the goals of futurists are to contribute toward making the world a better place in which to live” (p73), hence the moral and values basis of the work they do must be explicit and shared. One way in which foresight is useful is to allow individuals and groups to examine their values and explicitly accept them or take the opportunity to realign or even change them. So how do we know what are preferred futures and what are not? Bell has an improvement in the world as the basis, but what does this ‘better’ world look like? Who is it better for? For all or just those doing the imagining?


In The Image of the Future, Polak (1973) states that “awareness of ideal values is the first step in the conscious creation of images of the future…for a value is by definition that which guides a ‘valued’ future”. (p10) Hekman (1995) asserts that morality and subjectivity are inseparable, that to be subjective is in fact to express a moral stance. Hence, “just as there are multiple subjectivities, there are multiple moralities…we acquire a moral voice from social, cultural, historical setting that also constitutes our subjectivity; moral voices vary with race, class and gender.” (p160)


This is not the place for a drawn out discussion of moral judgement in modern societies, suffice it to say that part of the process of imagining a future state is to examine the underlying values, morals and ethics and whether these are shared, or not.


The reason such an exposition is of interest is when examining the theory of moral action and stage structures. Kolberg and Candee (1984) argue that moral actions involve “an internal moral cognition” (p55); that different stages of moral cognition will be influenced in two ways: “through difference in dedontic choice (should or ‘rightness’) and through judgements of responsibility (commitment to follow through)”. (p62) The following model in Figure Two illustrates this (p71):



Figure Two: Kolberg/Candee Model of Moral Action


Kolberg and Candee argue that moral stage and type will impact on the decision made as to the ‘rightness’ of a particular value or stance. This rightness will then impact on the responsibility to act and then non-moral skills such as attention and persistence will interact before action takes place. This theory fits well into the Hope model as shown in Figure One. It may be that the journey through Functions I to III, occurs during the outcome value phase of Hope Theory. The interactions that Kolberg and Candee (1995) ascribe to Function IV such as planning, persistence and goal focus are available to the individual through Hope. The suggestion therefore, is that when an individual is judging the outcome value to him/her of a particular goal, they are engaged in a moral judgement that will use an interaction of their moral stage and moral type.


Foresight capacity – thinking capacity


The development of a capacity for foresight in individuals and organisations is one of the building blocks of the development of social foresight. Slaughter (2004) has proposed a five stage model which moves from a past-responsive to future-responsive culture, as shown in Figure Three. Through the journey of these five stages, individual collectives can become interactive in a futures sense. For the purposes of Transformative Hope, it is suggested that development to the third and fourth stages is sufficient. In an organisational setting, this would require exposing people to the concepts and ideas of the futures domain; training them in the reflective use of tools and methods; and encouraging the routine use of them.


The spread of such ideas, methods and tools through organisations, and the bottom line benefits these deliver, would assist the fourth level of Slaughter’s model to develop. Moving to Level Five would still be some time off, however, the discipline of thinking about and imagining the future in an organisational setting, would set the scene for more widespread use of the discourse.


Many of the foresight tools and methods in Level Three involve the use of higher cognitive capacities and will assist in the development of these in interested people. Trying to conceive of, and understand, complexity will lead to a greater sense of having the ‘big’ picture. Tools, such as visioning and scenarios, allow people to interact with their creative side, and permit their innovative spirit to emerge. Many people find the freedom, that thinking in a future tense provides, is enough to allow them to throw off the shackles of their previous thinking and embrace new ways of knowing. Foresight which is reflective, self-aware and at depth can, and does, change the way people think about the world around them.



Figure Three: Stages in developing foresight (Slaughter 2004, p173)


Transformative Hope


As discussed, the construct of Transformative Hope is the synthesis of a number of theoretical and practical approaches to changing individual and organisational behaviour. It focuses on the:


1. Hope state and disposition of the individual
2. foresight capacity and practice of the individual and their organisation
3. shared image of the future held by the collective
4. behaviour of the collective, and the individual, that is driven by the image of the future
5. structure of the organisational unit.


There is necessary focus on the individual due to organisations being simply collections of people working to a common purpose. This purpose may not be fully agreed or even articulated, but it is the motivation for individuals to show up and participate in that particular organisation rather than another. Each of the elements interacts in different ways and this synthesis is not an attempt to provide the Holy Grail of organisational behaviour, it simply strives to illuminate a partial truth.


The Hope State
The Hope state and disposition measures are used to identify the agentic strength and pathways identification (pathways and willways) of individuals as a mirror to how they might feel empowered to act. An individual’s interior thoughts will never be truly known to an observer so this measure acts to indicate potentials. Hope theory has an implicit morals/values stance as the goals chosen within the Hope process will be those which are acceptable to the society in which the individual in situated. (Snyder 2002) High Hope levels have been linked to increased entrepreneurial activity, job satisfaction, workgroup performance and positive health outcomes. (Luthans 2002, Synder 2002, Shorey et al 2003)


Foresight capacity
Foresight capacity, or the capacity to deal with the future, is a subjective construction. New research by Hayward (2005) suggests that it is an intersection of the individual stages of ego development, values development and moral development. Teaching individuals how to think differently through foresight intervention and training can change the respective development levels in each domain.


Foresight also has an implicit values and morals aspect, especially the development of preferred futures. Bell (2003), in Foundations of Futures Studies, states “that the study and fostering of deep caring about the freedom and welfare of future generations are among the most important purposes of futures studies.” (p88)


One of the aspects to test through research is whether the awakening and developing of foresight capacity will enhance Hope levels. It is this author’s contention that it will. For two reasons: firstly, foresight emphasises action in the present (agency); envisioning of a preferred future state (goal) and identification of a pathway through which to achieve it. Secondly, Hope Theory is echoed in Polak’s (1973) idea of influence-optimism, the understanding that the future is fundamentally undetermined and open to human intervention. “It is possible for man to imagine a much better future, and even possible for man to work towards this future”. (p18) So, the envisioning and enacting such a future should increase the level of Hope expressed by an individual.


Collective futures images
The shared image of the future aspect seeks to capture the morals, values and ethics of the collective preferred state and express them in such a way that they can be shared through the organisation. Developing a shared image or vision is, by its nature, a relational process and a way in which foresight capacity can be turned on in individuals. It is not the image itself which is of importance, rather the expressed values, morals and ethics within it. It is these expressions which will be shared and enacted, as the image itself will be slightly different as each individual consciousness that holds it is different.


The guiding principle is that the shared ethics, morals and values are positive. That is, they seek to improve the situation of the individual and organisation in reference to the larger collective, so a vision of corporate dominance at all costs will result in lower Hope levels than one which describes the impact on future generations. There must be some desirability in the image, as an aspirational goal at the deepest levels of collective metaphor.


Measuring of the embodiment of shared organisational values could take place through interviews and questionnaires given at 6 monthly intervals after the initial visioning workshop.


Organisational performance
Once the image has been envisioned; Hope States and dispositions measured; and foresight capacity turned on; a measure of organisational performance as an indicator of action is needed. What this measure actually is will be different in each case for each organisation, and is likely to be driven by the values basis of the vision. For instance, if a business wants to improve bottom line performance through aligning its people on a vision of corporate sustainability the measures used to indicate performance will be different from an educational institute who wants to transform the lives of its pupils.


There are also some measures of the impact of high Hope in the workplace which can be used here. Job satisfaction and individual job performance can be measured pre- and post- intervention as high Hope levels have been reported as improving these aspects. (Peterson and Luthans, 2002)


Organisational structure
Once the individual and collective have been addressed and empowered to achieve their vision, the organisation structure itself may need to be reviewed to ensure that it assists rather than hampers the process. Jacques (1996) suggests that it is the organisational structure which may require changing, “it is little realized that it is the nature of the organizational setting…that is by far the most powerful factor in determining how we all get on. These organisational environments are an enormously powerful influence upon the justice and goodness or the injustice and badness of our society”. (p3) This aspect is a little too large to be dealt with at this time, but may also need to be taken into account when designing the research project.




A number of different areas of scholarship and praxis have been integrated into the construct called ‘Transformative Hope’. A Theory of Hope, a theory of moral judgement, shared images of the future, foresight, and Appreciative Inquiry, are combined to deliver a robust forward view which is inspirational and motivational for the individuals within the target organisation.


Transformative Hope takes Hope Theory and adds an image of the future with an explicit moral basis to work with individuals and organisations in order to move them towards transformative behaviours. One way we can hope, as a collective, to arrest the downward spiral of wealth inequality, environmental degradation and fracturing societies, is to start taking a long term view. From a temporal distance, many of today’s insurmountable issues are more manageable, through unleashing the creativity and innovation inherent in all humans; we can start to change the world in which we live.


From an organisational perspective, embracing Transformative Hope will deliver a re-invigorated organisation which is future focussed and driven to achieve its vision. Hope has been shown to improve bottom line performance and be an indicator for entrepreneurial activity. For individuals, having a high Hope state is positive for health and wellbeing.


Transformative Hope as a construct requires testing, and a proposed research framework is outlined. This framework would be used over a twelve month period to evaluate a number of hypotheses. The sponsoring organisation would receive a fully articulated future vision and structure of the organisation, with individuals who are committed to embodying the values of the vision and enacting the plans.




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pdf Transformative Hope and Collective Images of the Future.pdf