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

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ur 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.

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