Path Enactment: How Actors Move Towards Distant-future Goals

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Research on distant futures tends to apply oppositional thinking, such as between short- and long-term orientations. However, such thinking overlooks the ongoing processes by which actors move iteratively through time to address distant future goals as an ongoing process. Through a real-time study of a sustainability workstream, we investigated how actors engaged in what we call path enactment to stretch and configure paths of solutions towards distant-future goals. We show how the team under study enacted paths by moving between different combinations of ongoing and imagined solutions and how this enabled them to develop a feasible yet far-reaching sustainability strategy. We followed the team through three phases of path enactment, which consisted of identifying, elaborating, and consolidating paths. Path enactments were connected iteratively both between and within phases. In each phase three different mechanisms, inductively labelled bracketing, narrating, and calculating were at play. The mechanisms enabled the team to maintain focus on distant-future goals while connecting emerging paths forward and backward in time. Based on our findings, we develop a process model of path enactment towards distant-future goals that contributes to theories on organizational future-making in general and on future-making in the context of climate change in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-third Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonia Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2023: Putting the Worker Front and Center - Boston, United States
Duration: 4 Aug 20238 Aug 2023
Conference number: 83


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings

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