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Comment: Copyright 2007, softcover. Stain spots on the side edge. Highlighting/underlining/writing marks on some pages.
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Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities Paperback – August 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The former "head of Social, Political, Economic and Technological Scenarios" for Royal Dutch/Shell’s London office, Kahane is now an international mediation consultant. He offers problem-solving guidance by way of narrative biography, describing his extensive experience in defining and tackling tough problems, those that "usually don’t get solved peacefully. They either don’t get solved at all—they get stuck—or they get solved by force." The details of his interventions may be fresher than the advice they can be boiled down to: the most important problem-solving components, Kahane says, are talking and listening openly, reflectively and empathetically. Yet when Kahane describes the 1996 and 1997 meetings he helped convene in Colombia between the government and armed factions on the left and the right, the fragility of his concepts and the importance of committing to them in good faith become clear. A workshop he describes at the University of the North in South Africa, "a rural, apartheid-era institution with a history of conflict between radical black students and conservative white faculty," makes for another of many compelling object lessons. Companies and individuals who don’t face potentially violent disagreement or carry bitter histories of violence will still find thought-provoking (occasionally verging on spiritual) discourse on handling difficult situations gracefully, productively and calmly.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Kahane has written a brave and powerful book. He argues convincingly that winning solutions are found by listening, not by telling. Leadership is important, but the best leaders are good listeners. I have worked with him and he is right. Simply put: it works!" - Len Lindegren, former Global Strategy Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers "There are no magical solutions here. This is not another "how-to" book. Instead, Kahane provides us with the very personal story of how he grew from a young expert convinced of the need to provide the "correct" answers, to an effective facilitator of positive change - by learning how to create environments that enable new ideas and creative solutions to emerge. This book explores the connection between individual learning and institutional change, and how leaders can move beyond politeness and formal statements, beyond routine debate and the defense of their positions, towards deeper and more generative dialogue. It should be read by anyone who is concerned with the quality of decision-making in today's democracies." - Elena Martinez, Assistant Secretary General, United Nations" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2nd edition (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576754642
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576754641
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam Kahane is a partner in the Cambridge, Massachusetts office of Reos Partners and an Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford.

Adam is a leading organizer, designer and facilitator of processes through which business, government, and civil society leaders can work together to address their toughest challenges. He has worked in more than fifty countries, in every part of the world, with executives and politicians, generals and guerrillas, civil servants and trade unionists, community activists and United Nations officials, clergy and artists.

Adam is the author of "Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities," about which Nelson Mandela said: "This breakthrough book addresses the central challenge of our time: finding a way to work together to solve the problems we have created." He is also the author of "Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change" and "Transformative Scenario Planning: Working Together to Change the Future."

During the early 1990s, Adam was head of Social, Political, Economic and Technological Scenarios for Royal Dutch Shell in London. Previously he held strategy and research positions with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (San Francisco), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Vienna), the Institute for Energy Economics (Tokyo), and the Universities of Toronto, British Columbia, California, and the Western Cape.

In 1991 and 1992, Adam facilitated the Mont Fleur Scenario Exercise, in which a diverse group of South Africans worked together to effect the transition to democracy. Since then he has led many such seminal cross-sectoral dialogue-and-action processes, throughout the world. He was one of the sixteen outstanding individuals featured in Fast Company's first annual "Who's Fast," and is a member of Global Business Network, the International Futures Forum, and the World Academy of Art and Science.

Adam has a B.Sc. in Physics (First Class Honours) from McGill University (Montreal), an M.A. in Energy and Resource Economics from the University of California (Berkeley), and an M.A. in Applied Behavioural Science from Bastyr University (Seattle). He has also studied negotiation at Harvard Law School and cello performance at Institut Marguerite-Bourgeoys.

Adam and his wife Dorothy live in Montreal and Cape Town.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very unusual business strategy book on an esoteric topic: solving complex problems with scenario planning and analysis. Author Adam Kahane also discusses how change occurs in complicated social systems. Kahane, a conflict resolution consultant, shares a pivotal skill he learned at his former jobs with Royal Dutch/Shell and Pacific Gas & Electric. He learned how to address tangled problems with scenario analysis. He tried and, as his case histories testify, did not often succeed - to solve daunting problems in intractably troubled places, such as Paraguay, Colombia, South Africa and the Middle East. He admits his approach does not always work, though he has rare successes and frequent insights. Some of his strategy's separate steps, such as scenario planning and story telling, seem to function well on their own, but he has a tendency to de-link theory and practice. We recommend this unusual, instructive book to conflict managers, strategic planning executives and citizens who want to learn why profound national change must start at the individual level.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sera Thompson on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Adam is an amazing storyteller, inviting the reader into his personal and very human journey; seeking to address a range of complex and difficult conflicts. Adam's profound learning about fostering deep transformation in groups and the power of diversity, is illuminated by his fascinating work in the corporate world, the Shell Scenario Planning process and attempts to resolve deep conflict in cross-border conversations in Columbia, Guatamala, Argentina etc.

The book gives an insiders view on the Mont Fleur Scenario planning process, which brought together Apartheid leaders and leaders of the ANC and other key players in the struggle in the same room. The thinking they did together and the scenarios they developed, influenced the peaceful transition out of apartheid in South Africa.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in systemic change and the power of conversation. I was left with the profound and simple realization that it starts with me, and my ability to be truly present to others. It also strengthened my faith in our collective ability as human beings to find new ways of being together as we face tremendous complexity in all of our communities.

-Sera Thompson
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christopher B. Parish on December 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found this book very valuable and refreshingly simple and clear. To write simply is a quality which I personally hold in great esteem, and simplicity tends to lead to greater profundity. I was very moved by the way Adam Kahane showed the development of his work through various practical scenarios in different countries. I was struck by the scale of what he has helped to bring about and achieve, and I was also struck just as much by his ruthless honesty and humility about the whole journey and what he has/and is learning as he develops over the years. He chronicles a real evolutionary path of greater and ever deeper humanity. I feel that so much depends on the depth of authenticity and humanity of the facilitator. I am very impressed and inspired by the work Adam is doing in the world, and especially by the scale of his projects in Generon.

I was especially interested in the book where he talks about finding an agreement that goes beyond compromise - which goes beyond agreeing on ideas - and is about deeply agreeing on purpose.

I very much enjoyed having the opportunity of reading this gem of a book. One mark of its enduring value, is that it has really made me think and question more and more about what works and why.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By JB on March 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Weeks after finishing this book, I still marvel at Kahane's handling of a peculiar challenge: to describe for his readers a method of facing problems that cannot be solved with any predetermined methods. Kahane and his colleagues practice and describe an approach to working with difficult situations that asks everyone involved to collectively sense what has is latent (you can read about this in related books), and to act together, in concert, from the wholeness thereby sensed. These folks, as I'm sure anyone reading this review likely knows, are doing great work, but this book stands out even in this remarkable school of thought, at least for me, in one important way. It is one thing to advise us to be receptive so as to discern a way forward in the heat of a problematic situation; it is quite another to instill a capacity for doing so in the reader via the very flow, tone, and content of the text. Kahane does this, and this achievement is something magical, something even more compelling than the book's transparently described dynamics and ideas. How does he do it? Kahane writes with a combination of sincere honesty, vulnerability, and patient, open-ended observation of himself and others in various situations. As he observes his biography taking form, we observe him observing; we learn with him, and so are taken into his quest and into the emergence of his method. We see what it demands of a practitioner, and we see it bear fruit. We are taken into the inner space that precedes a breakthrough. The text takes us into the "mood" of tough problem solving: the reading of the text creates in us a living feeling for what the author describes conceptually.Read more ›
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