Managing Toward the "Ideal Future"

Last Updated Nov 5, 2007 12:28 PM EST

While reading up on the psychology of religion this summer, I ran across a theologian who has reframed the way I think about business leadership: Jurgen Moltmann.

Moltmann wrote broadly about hope, and in a sense every business, and especially every new business, is a testament to hope â€" at the least, a hope for profits. The specific idea of Moltmann's that stuck with me involved two terms: the adventus (the ideal future) and the futurum (the expected future). Moltmann discussed these in terms of the church, but every entrepreneur I've ever met, and plenty of managers at established business, has both an adventus and a futurum in mind.

The problem in business (as in religion) is conflating the one for the other â€" if you think you're doing something radical and disruptive, you're after the adventus. If you think you're doing something that will fit well with where things are expected to go, you're following the futurum. But if you think the futurum is the adventus, well, you're probably settling for less than you could get. And if you can't tell your adventus from your futurum, you'd better hope your investors can't, either, because they usually aren't the same.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.