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What is the emerging message of this book?

Adam Kahane
February, 2024


On February 20 and 21, 2024, we had a pair of Zoom conversations about the emerging message of the book, which I found to be enormously clarifying. 

Here is the recording of the call on February 20 and here is the one from February 21.

My primary takeaways from these calls were:

  1. The target audience for this book is everyone who wants to contribute to transforming systems, not only people who are already doing so and not only people who do so as professional "facilitators." Therefore, although some of the seven habits are well known to such professionals, the purpose of the book is to make them known to more people (and the language of the book must support this objective).
  2. The central message of the book, explained through the seven habits, is that transforming systems generatively requires a particular way of relating or engaging with others, i.e. a particular way of being

On the February 20 call, Fyodor Uvchinnikov put it this way:

If you are in a place that is really crying out for transformation—not just like, hmm, maybe I should transform something because that’s what I like to do—then these habits help you stay sane and on purpose. Habits shape strategy. In complex systems, only emergent strategies work; you can’t have a good plan but you can have a good presence, and these habits design our being. A lot of times habits are imposed by the system and include ones like, don’t say anything or don’t look outside of your tunnel vision. When we become more conscious about our habits, they can actually be life-savers, by enabling us to build cohesion for collective action.

In the current draft of the book, I have explained the "particular way of engaging" as follows:

The way to discover, open up, and break through a crack in a system is not by sledgehammering it, but by engaging in give and take with it, meaning “taking part in; pledging oneself to; holding fast; entering into conflict with.” And not by engaging superficially in a way that keeps the system as it is (as in “I have a dinner engagement”), but by doing so radically (from the Latin radix, meaning root), meaning “going to the root(s); affecting the foundation; naturally inherent, essential, fundamental.” Radical engagement with a system means taking part in it courageously, leaning forward, hands-on, under the surface, and above all reciprocally—not timidly, withdrawn, at arms-length, superficially, and unilaterally. It means the day in-day out practice of intentionally and consciously connecting, communicating, competing, and collaborating on fundamental matters with people from different parts or levels of the system, at the cracks, in order together with them to transform it.

Please add your reflections and comments below.

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