Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities

  • 2h 13m
  • Adam Kahane
  • Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • 2004

Our most common way of solving problems-at home, at work, in our communities, in national and international affairs-is to use our expertise and authority to apply piece-by-piece, tried-and-true "best practices." This works for simple, familiar, uncontentious problems. But it doesn't work for the complex, unfamiliar, conflictual problems that we all increasingly face. When we try to solve these complex problems using our common way, the problems end up either getting stuck or getting unstuck only by force. We all need to learn another way.

Adam Kahane has worked on some of the toughest, most complex problems in the world. He started out as an expert analyst and adviser to corporations and governments, convinced of the need to calculate "the one right answer." Then, through an unexpected experience in South Africa during the transition away from apartheid, he got involved in facilitating a series of extraordinary high-conflict, high-stakes problem solving efforts: in Colombia during the civil war, in Argentina during the collapse, in Guatemala after the genocide, in Israel, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, and the Basque Country. Through these experiences, he learned to create environments that enable new ideas and creative solutions to emerge even in the most stuck, polarized contexts. Here Kahane tells his stories and distils from them a "simple but not easy" approach all of us can use to solve our own toughest problems.

Using examples from families, governments, corporations, and nonprofits, Kahane explores the connection between individual learning and institutional change, and shows how to move beyond politeness and formal statements, beyond routine debate and defensiveness, toward deeper and more productive dialogue. Engaging and inspiring, personal and practical, this book offers us a down-to-earth and hopeful way forward: a way of "open-minded, open-hearted, open-willed talking and listening" vital for creating lasting change.

About the Author

Adam Kahane is a founding partner of Generon Consulting and of the Global Leadership Initiative. He is an expert in the design and facilitation of processes that help diverse groups of people work together to sense and actualize emerging futures. He has worked in this area with corporate leaders in more than 50 countries, in every part of the world, as well as with politicians and guerillas, civil servants and community activists, trade unionists and clergy. He is also a leading thinker and practitioner in the merging of strategic management, scenario thinking, and collaborative problem solving.

In this Book

  • "There is Only One Right Answer"
  • Seeing the World
  • The Miraculous Option
  • Being Stuck
  • Dictating
  • Talking Politely
  • Speaking Up
  • Only Talking
  • Openness
  • Reflectiveness
  • Empathy
  • Cracking Through the Egg Shell
  • Closed Fist, Open Palm
  • The Wound that Wants to be Whole
  • Conclusion—An Open Way
  • Notes