Some time around 1991 or 1992, I took part in a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner training led by Ian McDermott, the founder of International Teaching Seminars. The TOTE model shown in the following graphic was one of the many things I learnt during the course. It made a lasting impression and was the main inspiration for now-to-new.
I participated in the NLP practitioner training while making the transition from the world of marketing to the worlds of innovation and organisational change, which at the time were barely related. Each had its own theories, its own language, and its own practices and practitioners. The discipline of change management was in its infancy — Daryl Conner’s groundbreaking book Managing at the speed of change first saw the light of day in 1993 — and organisational change work was in the hands of organisation development (OD) people.
“In 1960 [George] Miller, Eugene Galanter, and Karl Pribram proposed that stimulus-response (an isolated behavioral sequence used to assist research) be replaced by a different hypothesized behavioral sequence, which they called the TOTE (test, operate, test, exit). In the TOTE sequence a goal is first planned, and a test is performed to determine whether the goal has been accomplished. If it has not been accomplished, operations are performed to achieve the goal. The test is performed again, and exit occurs if the goal is achieved. Otherwise, the process repeats.”
In the early 1990s, there was much talk in the OD world about change being a journey from current reality to a desired future state — a cumbersome and not wholly accurate description, given that change is not a journey (that’s just a metaphor) and that what really needs to be created is a desired present state. There’s much more I could say on this topic but I’ll save it for another day.
Around the same time, I came across a copy of an in-house publication produced by Gemini Consulting, a high profile and influential change management firm that evolved into CapGemini. The authors of the publication didn’t use the terms current reality and desired future state. Instead, they talked about As-Is and To-Be. Today these terms are commonplace, but in 1992 they were freshly minted and for a short while I was smitten.
What happened next was more like a game than a deliberate attempt at coining new terminology. I wondered if four letters could be reduced to three. My first attempt yielded Got and Want: accurate labels, but a little too colloquial for the business world and still four letters in the second word. Then inspiration struck. Got became Now, Want became New, and here we are, some 30 years later.