To come back to the river and its bed (as referred to in the post on the dominance and limits of the people centred leadership paradigm): of course, the river also changes the riverbed, eroding sand and rocks. This is, however, a slow process and does not necessarily redirect the river to where it is needed. In terms of futures research we would say that the changes to the current river amounts to current future developments, while the digging of new riverbeds amounts to a desired system redesign.
As to the chipping away at the current paradigm, I have seen inspiring examples of leadership (e.g. of sustainable business practice, like the ones we were introduced to during the conference). Alas, in the course of the last 30 years or so, I have seen those kinds of initiatives and their inspiring and enthusiastic leaders before, but what I yet have to see is their impact on a large and lasting scale (i.e. their upscaling in space and time). I have also seen most of them die when their founding members (or funders) withdrew, to be reinvented in a similar manner, in a different context, without reference to and use of knowledge accumulated by the previous efforts. Again (like the previous efforts) they are heralded as a leading case study for shaping the future, an inspiration to the mainstream of how it can transform. Yet, the mainstream fails to respond.
I have also seen inspiring projects and leaders operating in the same context almost competing against each other, instead of coordinating and collaborating. (I have done some work with governments to effect more coordination between NGOs and other organisations operating in the same area of application and experienced firsthand the resistance – personal and organisational).
Do these initiatives have merit? Yes, hugely! But they are not effective enough in the larger scheme of things. We need to get them out of the closet into the mainstream. We need to stop reinventing and instead: learn from each other, combine, coordinate, upscale what we already have and know. We need to go global! This, too, requires systemic in-formation leadership.