Getting Unstuck: from “How Things Are Now” to “Ideal Future”

Getting Unstuck: from “How Things Are Now” to “Ideal Future”

Mar 1, 2018

Getting Unstuck: from “How Things Are Now” to “Ideal Future”

At some point, most groups experience a shared challenge or tough situation that they are unable to see a way out of. The group may fixate on “how things are” and the discussion stops moving toward a positive future and gets mired in the problems. There are other options for being strategic, future-oriented, and learning from other industries to help elevate the group’s thinking and get unstuck.
When facing the challenges of today you will notice different roles in the group, or in the industry leaders you research. Some people will play the role of resisting – rejecting the status quo. Resistors are valuable because they show us what needs to change and they use their energy to confront injustice.  There may also be Reformers who work within system to make improvements.  They can help us see where to make immediate, incremental progress.  Recreators will look at how to start fresh, bringing forth change outside of the existing system. And finally, there are the Re-Imaginers who challenge us to see the problem itself in a totally new way, and orient to new possibilities.  Examples of each type of change-making strategy can help lift a group up from feeling like “there’s nothing we can do.”
(See Spirit in Action’s Theory of Change for more information.)


Examples of each type of change-making strategy can help lift a group up from feeling like “there’s nothing we can do”
We asked Integrated Work’s peer learning facilitators for tips on how they’ve managed to move the needle toward future progress when the group is stuck in the present. Here are some strategies and techniques to get you started. They can apply to any situation in which you’re trying to lead a group comprised of the different roles above—whether they are peer learning teams, boards, staff, etc.—out of a “stuck” present and into an inspiring future.

  • Research ideas and options. The situation might be complex and encompass many different perspectives, so make sure you can knowledgeably facilitate the conversation by getting background, context and an extensive knowledge base. Learn about potential solutions to challenges by researching online, exploring the recommendations of industry thought leaders, and talking to experts, stakeholders, and knowledgeable colleagues.
  • Enlist the optimists to start the discussion. When you’re preparing for the session, enlist group members who tend to be optimistic and excited about the possibilities the future hold. Before the session, ask if they are willing to start the conversation or respond to your opening question.
  • Acknowledge the present, then turn toward the future. Empathize with the group’s dilemma and give people permission to see the issue as something more than just an intractable problem. You might say, “It’s a really tricky situation, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like we’ll be stuck here forever. But just for a few moments, let’s imagine a different perspective, a different future, a different option.” One strategy is to show the group a continuum slide or diagram with “current state” on one end, and “ideal future” on the other. Ask group members, “Where do you fall on this continuum?” and allow for discussion. With this information, you can acknowledge where people are, and then direct their attention to the ideal future, introducing the idea that today’s reality is not set in stone.
  • Focus on incremental change within the big picture. Sometimes when the gap between the current reality and the ideal future is large, group members feel discouraged and uncertain of their ability to succeed. In this case, help them make incremental changes. For instance, with the continuum example used above, you can then say, “So you rated yourself a 4. Imagine what a 6 looks like. What would you need to do to get there?” Jumping from 4 to 10 may seem impossible but moving steadily from 4 to 6 seems more feasible.

Although these techniques are oriented towards groups, you might also be able to adapt some techniques to individuals as well, such as when coaching a staff member through a difficult mindset shift.

How do you encourage your team to move past a “stuck” situation and into an inspiring future? What has worked well for you, or what have you seen work well for others that you’d like to try?