Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities Paperback – July 2, 2007
"Manage Your Day-to-Day" by 99U
Stop doing busywork. Start doing your best work. | Learn more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
—David Korten, President of the People-Centered Development Forum, and author of When Corporations Rule the World
“This generative dialogue approach offers real opportunities for governments to engage with stakeholders to build trust and create exciting new resolutions to multi-faceted social and governance challenges.”
—Clare Beckton, Assistant Deputy Attorney General of Canada
“Adam Kahane’s book invites us to dare to move back into that sacred space of silence: a space where we listen and hear with our hearts, and not only with our heads. The stories he tells celebrate the amazing transformation that takes place when we have the courage to be vulnerable and speak openly and honestly—where passion is not used to defend an ideology or position, but is directed at enhancing a shared commitment for a common purpose. This is a book that needs to be read now.”
—Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
“Adam Kahane presents a very strong case for how authentic dialogue can change the world. A fascinating mix of both large ideas and practical details, winnowed from decades of experiences in many countries and institutions around the world. A definitive work on a transformational social innovation.”
—Nicanor Perlas, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize), and author of Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power, and Threefolding
“A brave and powerful book.”
—Len Lindegren, former Global Strategy Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers
“This fascinating book paints both seemingly unsolvable problems and a path towards sustainable solutions. A ‘must read’ for those who want to be part of creating such new realities.”
—Jeroen Bordewijk, Senior Vice President, Unilever
“Being successful in business today means being able to solve complex challenges in a dynamic global environment, while building teams that can handle change creatively. This book shows us how to unlock the creativity of diverse teams to find solutions that work.”
—Katherine Taylor, Director General, General Electric Medical Systems Mexico
“This book makes a strong case, from fascinating inside stories about the really tough problems in the world, that success depends on leaders learning to listen. Recommended reading for all decision takers dealing with tough problems.”
—Arie de Geus, former Group Planning Coordinator, Royal Dutch/Shell, and author of The Living Company
“A book that needs to be read everywhere people have differences—in politics, the church, labor, the academy, and business. Kahane’s message is wise, honest, and above all realistic. A gift for our time.”
—W. Brian Arthur, Citibank Professor, Santa Fe Institute
“This is a profound and important book. It is special in both the simplicity and authenticity of the writing, and the value and far reaching impact of its message. It offers a ways of thinking and acting that can heal the woundedness of our organizations and our communities. I recommend it wholeheartedly.”
—Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting, Stewardship, The Empowered Manager, The Answer to How Is Yes, and Freedom and Accountability at Work
“Adam Kahane has written a useful and powerful book. It turns out that the rational, structured approach is just the beginning. Success occurs only when people deeply listen and talk with each other.”
—Harrison Owen, author of Expanding Our Now, Tales from Open Space, and Open Space Technology
“Adam Kahane is one of those all too rare ‘warriors for peace’ who is willing to immerse himself totally into our world’s most intractable conflicts. In story after story, we witness the remarkable transformation of isolated individuals—separate, hostile, closed to one another, with fixed positions—into a single, complex, organism with a common goal, fresh thinking, and, most of all, hope. Kahane makes it crystal clear that deep talking and listening do not come easily, but when they do, the world moves.”
—Barry Oshry, author of Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life and Leading Systems: Lessons from the Power Lab
“Kahane puts into words wisdom glimpsed from the cauldron of real world experience. He renews our hope that it is possible to map a better future and sustains our faith that the heart can be a guide.”
—Alan Briskin, author of The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace
“This book is a gem—in a class of its own. It explains simply and eloquently the essence of the process of non-violent, voluntary transformational change in social systems that seem stuck in hopelessness.”
—Arun Maira, Chairman, The Boston Consulting Group India
“This book is a victory for those of us who believe that even the most intractable of our societal problems can be successfully addressed through the efforts of people of good will. It inspires us with real stories of unlikely groups of people separated by gulfs of fear, history, rage and violence, sitting down and bridging chasms of mistrust through the simple human acts of speaking and listening from the heart. I recommend it highly.”
—Robert Gass, Rockwood Leadership Program; former President, ARC International
“This book includes the story of the Visión Guatemala team, in which a group of us, who in the ordinary course of events would never have met or worked together, had an unprecedented experience that opened up new horizons for us and for our country. Adam helped us cultivate our dreams and ideals, and gave us the energy and hope to act to renew our society.”
—Raquel Zelaya, former Secretary of Peace, Guatemala
“I have facilitated dialogue and problem-solving in many of today’s ‘intractable’ conflicts—Cyprus, the Caucasus, Kosovo, and Colombia, among others. This book offers valuable new approaches for working in these situations. It goes beyond dialogue, and offers ways of building on dialogue to create new realities.”
—Diana Chigas, Conflict Management Group and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
“Tough problems is an understatement. This book provides a road map for solving the intractable and the tragic. Companies facing extinction, communities on the brink, and countries in crisis—Kahane has used his tools in all these contexts, and serves them up admirably in this volume.”
—Michel Gelobter, Executive Director, Redefining Progress
“This book offers us stories of profound transformation—and with a refreshing directness teaches us ways of talking and listening that can embrace the toughest problems. The packing of so much practical wisdom into such a small space creates a jewel of inspiration.”
—Betty Sue Flowers, Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library
“Adam Kahane is one of those rare action-intellectuals who combines a deep theoretical understanding of social change and group process with actual experience in situations of conflict and turmoil, where people are desperate for solutions but unable to secure what they need. Adam brings the catalyst for change.”
—James Garrison, President of State of the World Forum and author of America as Empire
“At the heart of many of our most intractable problems lies the belief that reflection and action are somehow separate. Solving Tough Problems goes a long way in healing this rift. In doing so it elegantly sets out a direction for us to follow if we are to shift radically our current destructive patterns of behavior.”
—Zaid Hassan, Cultivation Unit, Pioneers of Change
“This is a book about miracles, not the kind of miracles produced by angels but the kind produced by people listening and talking to one another. When faced with tough, complex problems such conversations are likely to be more helpful than yet more ‘objective’ analyses.”
—David Brooks, Founding President, Friends of the Earth Canada
“Adam Kahane pens his mind and heart in prose reminiscent of personal letters to an intelligent friend. His theme is simple and admirable: how to replace the power of violence with the power of listening-and-talking, of regenerative dialogue. His stories move me, unveiling, as no other book, how the informed and reflective heart is the essential compliment to rational, strategic thought.”
—Peter Warshall, editor, Whole Earth, the magazine of the Whole Earth Catalog
“The world we live in requires that we all take responsibility for the good of the whole; our collective future depends on it. Adam Kahane has given us a lovely treatise on how that can happen individually and collectively through open minds and open hearts.”
—Carolyn Lukensmeyer, President and Founder, AmericaSpeaks
About the Author
- Publisher : Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 2nd edition (July 2, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 168 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1576754642
- ISBN-13 : 978-1576754641
- Item Weight : 0.035 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.44 x 8.42 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,093,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
"A timely novel highlighting the worth and delicate nature of Nature itself." -Delia Owens Learn more
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The author illustrates these points by recounting his actual experiences initially at a university setting, then a large corporation, and then pursuing his passion as facilitator in conflict ridden countries. The most profound lessons to be learned can be seen in South Africa when moving from an apartheid culture to an open culture. His insights and principles are in line with some of our greatest thinkers. How
Creating effective dialogue is far more difficult than it sounds. But it is possible. I’m inspired to apply what I’ve learned on a much smaller scale, my own community hospital.
In summary, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
"Collaboration" and "Dialogue" are certainly buzzwords these days, and there is much form in that regard, but not as much substance as we need. That is, there is much pretending in the way of "collaboration" and "listening" to the opinions of others, but in reality the "listening" is a show. His discussion of "listening" throughout this book, what it is and what it is not, is the bright spot in my opinion. There is a false way of listening that may appear as sincere as the real, but it's not, and it's not helpful. I also really like his statement that "The root of not listening is knowing.", or thinking you know. I can't count the number of times I have seen this happen, and how many times I have been guilty of it myself. When you think you know, you stop seeking and you are incapable of seeing the truth, even when it is right in front of you. It is self-deception of the highest order. "Being and expert is a severe impediment to listening and learning."
He shows the prerequisites for a successful collaboration and the astounding results that can be achieved. He advocates convincingly for a new approach to the toughest problems we face. I have been seeing this approach emphasized in other items I have been reading as well.
It was not his purpose, but I can't help but wish he would given us more technical details on his scenario building work, as well as more details on how to structure and facilitate the "dialogue" meetings he advocates. Don't let the use of the phrase "new realities" make you pause, it is not an expression of naive idealism, rather, it is his way of saying what can be achieved versus the ineveitable failure we have and will experience if we keep using the same failed approaches we have always used. You can't accuse him of being naive and unrealistic when everything he discusses is documented reality and in which he was a direct participant.
As I said, he accomplished his purpose with flying colors, I just wish his purpose was a little broader.
If the topic of complex social problem solving interests you, look into Dr. Don Beck's audiobook of 6 CDs on his great influence in Africa at the same time. Also check out his "Spiral Dynamics" for mind-blowing revelations about how social issues really work and how to solve them.
Another aspect of this book that is better handled by other authors is the topic of non-violent communication. Again I prefer audiobooks and the ones by Marshall Rosenberg can teach you how to do it.
Top reviews from other countries
Kahane describes how he worked with major Governments and leaders to attempt to resolve some of the toughest conflicts in the world: South Africa, Paraguay, Basques, Guatemala, Columbia and Argentina. I was interested to read about his relative failure in some places (notably with the Basques) and success in others (notably South Africa and Argentina).
He describes problems being tough because they are complex across three dimensions: dynamic complexity, generative complexity and social complexity.
Dynamic complexity arises if the cause and effect are far apart in terms of space and time. Generative complexity is high when the future is unfamiliar and unpredictable. Social complexity is high when those involved do not share the same assumptions, values, rationales and objectives.
He concludes that two components are required to make progress: the ability to talk and the ability to listen.
In his experience of trying to resolve some of the fundamental issues in Canada, for example, he found that the parties weren't really talking - just being polite with each other and not opening up. In the case of the Basques, they weren't truly listening and empathising with each other.
However, in Argentina, not only were they talking - but they were also truly listening: and in the aftermath of the country's collapse in 2001, remarkable progress was made (in the reform of the judiciary) through the dialogue that he initiated.
However, his definition of talking and listening goes beyond what we may think of. He describes 4 different ways of talking and listening:
The first way is "downloading": saying what we always say and not listening at all.
The second way of listening is debating: listening fairly and objectively.
The third way is talking and listening with empathy, subjectively, from the heart: reflective dialogue.
The fourth way, is "generative dialogue", wherein there is a "communion" between those involved to truly understand that they are radically connected.
Some very useful learning, in my opinion.