This is the fifth “writing out loud” excerpt from the working draft of Adam Kahane’s new book, “Collaborating with the Enemy: An Open Way to Work with People You Don’t Agree With or Like or Trust,” to be published by Berrett-Koehler in 2017. Adam is keen to engage with interested readers around this material as he develops it. If you have not yet subscribed and would like to continue receiving updates and participate in a conversation about them, please sign up here.
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David Diamond says
Terrific, Adam. The writing is coherent and not in baffle-gab, which I really appreciate. You may be interested to know that in our recent project “Reclaiming Hope – from a culture of fear” one of the most common discoveries by audiences/participants each night was that hope lies in one’s ability to become comfortable in discomfort. That healthy collective action, action in which we truly move forward together, is only possible when we give ourselves permission to sit in the ‘broken places’ together….the uncomfortable places.
This idea seems to be bubbling out there and is reflected clearly in this writing, which I’ve shared with Staff here.
All the best. David
Charles M Lines says
Once again, thanks for the practical experiences which bring the key points to life! As I said in my initial email to you, it is interesting that it is within the conflict and unpredictability that new insights, solutions and ways forward evolve, but these things are what people instinctively try to avoid.
New insights, ideas and ways forward emerging through uncertainty and unpredictability manifests in technology innovation partnerships as well. If you are not already aware, you may be interested in the work of Karin Ivertsen and her concept of ‘Partnership Drift’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WNJs0Hc1sM Her work goes a long way to exploding the myth that complex collaborative systems can be effectively controlled in the traditional way. Tough collaborations are subject to the rule that ‘the more we control the less we control’: http://cuttingedgepartnerships.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-more-we-control-less-we-control.html
I think the point about focusing upon what could be done within a collaborative context rather than what should be done is crucial and perhaps could be emphasised slightly more, perhaps by showing how you get people to do it, which may involve reassuring people that their core interests will not be discarded or forgotten whilst they explore additional ways forward.
Working separately and together is also a crucial point you make. It is important for partners to create ‘a container’ that enables this is key paradox to be managed. Intel did it effectively through a system of open and transparent meetings between partners which were chaired by senior, trusted and respected people. These partner meetings had the power to create some rules for their ‘collaborative game’, which (among others things) delineated when, where, how, when and with whom partners would work together and share information and where they would pursue their own interests and not share information. This was all approached in a flexible and evolving manner rather than a dogmatic one. Also, it was not easy but, on the whole, it seemed to work.
I too have seen creative solutions being identified and used through nothing more than beginning to take collective action. During a creative problem solving workshop individuals struggled with finding a solution to a task I set them. However, as soon as I suggested people literally get together and shove their ideas around they almost instantly solved the problem, virtually without a word: just shifting some items around between them. It was almost like magic!
Yes collaboration can be a bit like gardening. The more I study collaboration the more I think it is like nature generally and that the laws of evolution, rather than the principles of traditional leadership and management science, etc., hold sway over it.
Adam Kahane says
This note and your writing are enormously helpful Charles. Thank you!
Charles M Lines says
Pleasure and likewise!
Terry L Nichols says
The words cannot be predicted or controlled make me think about the reason for the need to come together. Is the purpose to create a plan the focus or some type of solution or next steps? The creation can easily become the first and final step.
Another item that stands out to me is your comment on wanting things done “your way” and how you had to self reflect on the idea that you were in this mind set.. How can a person decide he/she needs to self reflect? Haidt: You can only respond to the information you have. In order to redirect you need some type of new info.”
I am always intrigued by the idea that once people agree to come together to discuss an almost any item there seems to be some progress. Similar to Covey’s 3rd alternative. Get people in the room and ask them are they willing to accept a “better” way if there is one.
Fially, how does a person or leader or facilitator etc etc get people to look at the solution as a beginning and not the end. There needs to be constant reviewing and refining. An officer in the military said it best, “the plan is only good until the 1st shot is fired” or Mike Tyson ” the plan is only good until the first time you get punched in the face” How do you keep the collaborators from becoming the owners of a plan. Plan should be “OUR” based on Ownership, Uniqueness and RELATIONS. Move from “the plan” to OUR plan.
Thanks for the time and the idea that collaboration is not easy. so tell me is this a transition chapter?
Adam Kahane says
Terry, my most fruitful self reflections have always arisen from failure: from running up against a wall that I did not realize was there and then (eventually) asking myself what is going on.
Michael Chender says
Very clear and penetrating. Two questions come to mind.
One comes from the necessity, reflected in the first comment, to tolerate ambiguity, or become “comfortable with discomfort.” How have you personally increased that tolerance, aside from dipping yourself into it repeatedly. What kept you from freaking out at certain points? Do you have to be wired a certain way to do this work, or are there tips to help learn “how to sit in the broken places.” I know you’re not writing a self-help manual, but this seems to be such a critical foundational skill…
The other is, “What about the unlikely feelings of empathy, friendliness that begin to emerge after one has been engaging with those other frustrating bastards for long enough?” Is there a certain minimal time that you’ve seen that it takes for wisps of camaraderie to emerge?
Adam Kahane says
Thanks for these two questions, Michael.
Jerome Ravetz says
I am reminded of a very apt quote,
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.”
This is by Jerry Sternin, the creator of ‘Positive Deviance’.
Martin Echavarria says
Hi Adam, I very much enjoyed this chapter. A few comments that came up for me:
•In the first section limits of rationality, I think its valid in all kinds of collaborations, whether they be “tough collaborations” or other and as you have said all collaborations require courage and are in this respect always tough. I’m left with the simple idea that perhaps one would read it and not be sure how one kind of collaboration would be distinguished from another and as such, maybe it would be good to simply consider all “collaboration”.
•I really liked the idea that collaboration is somewhat irrational, or at least that you can’t approach work that requires true collaboration from a purely rational method, and perhaps not at all, when larger systems change multi-stakeholder work is involved. I’m curious why you do not speak about the emotional? In my view and work, collaboration is fundamentally an emotional group process of relatedness, rationality perhaps guides the process but does not control it, when it tries to control it, it fails. I see that as the key learning here.
•When you spoke about the emergent model, you refer to a model you saw in 2012-13 and I was left wondering what where the distinctions from that model and others you had seen in the past. It felt like the thread was lost a bit there, at least for me.
•Later in the same section, you bring up “we had to find a way to collaborate”… here again it seemed as though I wanted to know how you were able to build the internal collaboration between the delivery team (OAS,CLG) and then work through the project. How were you finally able to collaborate?
•Of course there is mistrust, they are relating with each other as representatives of organizations and projecting their thoughts on to themselves rather than as people. Typical dysfunction when groups work toward collaboration.
•Finally, you talked about the fact that the narcotics project moved forward and became unstuck, I think the current peace-talks in Colombia and I’m sure others are evidence of this, no?
Great chapter, it helped me reflect on my own work in collaboration. Thanks! — Martin
Jeff Barnum says
Hey Adam, great work. One thought comes to mind as I read the chapter and the preceding comments, which is this. What you’re calling collaboration I think of as cocreation. The less we “control,” the more we “co-create” in an emergent manner. The only way I know how to think about this is as something happening at all scales simultaneously — a fractal in motion, so to speak. At each level, WHAT I do may be different — but the intent with which I do it does scale.
For example, suppose I deliberately cultivate, as a personal practice, “interest in the other” with respect to my self, my family and friends, my community, within my organization, and in my projects. In each case, the outcome assumes a different form — but the quality carries through. Moreover, if this cultivation produces in me an innate and active respect for human beings as such — then (and only then) I am in a position to help bring forth the social function of “equality” in the sphere of rights. In my view, all talk and motions of “creating” or “furthering” equality without a corresponding “first person” and embodied knowledge of equality is bound to be undermined by pressures coming from other spheres.
I believe that this type of consideration must increasingly become very practical — and ultimately a set of tools and know-how — for social sculptors of the present and future. We have to learn to perceive, think, work, and co-create in ways that unite the inner experiences of living in a healthy society with the needed forms and structures — not only in the sphere of rights, of course, but also regarding economic and cultural norms and institutions. None of the latter will universally apply from culture to culture, from decade to decade — but the archetypes will, and can, I think, provide a basis for social co-creation at any scale, in any place — at least for the foreseeable future.
I realize there’s much more to be thought through along these lines. But I thought I’d share my thoughts. Yours, Jeff
Chris Corrigan says
Very nice stuff Adam.
Here is a recent paper on containers that I wrote for the OD Practitioner journal. http://www.chriscorrigan.com/parkinglot/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/ODP-V48No2-Corrigan_Rev3.pdf
Functioning within a container that itself is a microcosm of complex adaptive collaboration is an important shift towards the five outcomes you talk about.
Understanding the need to connect thought and action through discovery and finding is very important and stands to be an influential contribution of this book. Tuesday Ryan Hart is working on some interesting stuff about staying in relationship while doing shared work across differences.
Vinay Gunther says
Theres elements of the ‘route cannot be known’, that reminds me of the Gestalt approach – using Wu Wei, or creative void; a willingness to be with uncertainty, and let a deeper whole emerge.
This represents an attitude; practicing it involves a kind of subtle skill…the Keats ‘negative capability’.
The latter outline of the importance of the container – I think this references back to the argument you allude to, regarding control over the whole process: ‘I had had to push so hard to get my OAS counterparts to go along with the way of working that I was advocating: involving all actors, including opponents and enemies; maintaining a transparent process; and giving the team control of the text’. I disagree that this was ‘just’ you trying to have things your way. Ok, sure, it was. But I think it was actually about the management of the process, not just arguments over content. And the nature of the process working does depend on the right container, which is related to the very thing you were fighting for. So I actually think that this cant be compared to forcing. I think the ‘force’ of pushing for a certain process is essential; its the use of power to ensure that the container can handle all those full on clashing forces. So, I suggest you frame it differently – ok, its disarming that you admit your own pushiness, but I think the issue is bigger than that. And without the very things you were pushing for, I dont think the process would really have worked like it did.
How to move forward together: I think this section could well be manualised. I know, you are not writing that kind of book, but it begs a framework for application. I can just see it – a little workbook with questions: ‘which of the 5 types of outputs are you most focused on’ (or most achieving here) / what scale do you want to work on / which of the following conditions do you have in place / what is the degree of willingness to stretch, and how can you support that?
also, the sentence:
They need to take an approach that is generative rather than degenerative, including by alternating between talking and fighting and escaping from downloading and debating.
…is not very clear…
S Kulshrestha says
At the outset, excellent piece of writing , it appears as if one is listening to you live!
My take away was the para “Collaborating therefore involves more than making a deal or an agreement……Success means that they are able to get unstuck and take a next step.
Congratulations on a brilliant chapter.
James Davis says
I just read all four chapters together, trying to understand a feeling I have that something is missing.
My struggle is applying the model in the current political context in which power and winning seem to be the ultimate goal. My work in inner cities in the United States often runs into this purely political wall of “power over others.” Perhaps we have not yet hit a pain point in the U.S. that requires us to begin talking. I guess it is similar to the comment that the “IRA would be happy with 100% of nothing.”
Will you be addressing this issue or is it even addressable?
Adam Kahane says
Hello James. Thank you for your question, which helps me remember something that is very important which I need to address properly. My short answer is that in the face of a relentless effort to impose to force–to impose “power over”–the (only?) answer is to build countervailing force. But I will write more about this. Yours, Adam
Doug Canterbury-Counts says
Adam, (new to your list I read all the chapters throughout this weekend … chewing on your thoughts … savoring some … wrestling with others … realizing I needed to read them all before I comment on any, lest you answer my questions elsewhere …thus you get all my comments deemed useful … apologies if too much … a perspective from sacred psychology … may your effort serve the greater Good …)
Such a delight to read your reflections that are evolving from your decades of commitment to the world we live in. Long before I met you, I started sharing my thoughts about Kali: Archetype for the 21st Century, the first time in Cape Town at the Parliament of World Religions in 1999. This theme was stimulated both by a dream nearly 10 years earlier I was still working on, and continue to work on, and more specifically a quote by Carl Jung that without recognition and integration of the shadow and feminine archetypes our species is not likely to continue to co-evolve with nature. That initial workshop has evolved into a three-part series that starts with individual transformation, the Yoga of Relationship, and cultural transformation. The relationship work took a great leap forward when I was led to the research and therapeutic model of John and Julie Gottman that I’ll talk a bit more about below. (I can forward some easier summaries of their work from articles in Scientific American and the Atlantic Monthly if you are not aware of their work and interested). The cultural transformation component is indebted almost entirely to your writings, particularly Power and Love, steeped in the foundation from my Sacred Passage experiences. For your clarity I am endlessly grateful and continue to look forward to the guidance you offer in this work.
Here are some responses:
1. I did not read that collaboration is the “2nd best option” as hierarchical (cf. Barnum comments). Rather, I read it as the default choice when adapting and fighting were determined to be ineffective.
2. For 30 years I have understood collaboration as the “best” conflict resolution approach but typically too difficult to apply in many daily conflicts, e.g. which bill to pay first; so, compromise is the default “second best” when avoidance is not the most sensible, e.g., the potential bar fight scene. I am sure you are familiar with the TKI model. http://www.kilmanndiagnostics.com/overview-thomas-kilmann-conflict-mode-instrument-tki. As an extroverted feeling type, I’m hardwired to seek harmony. The limitations in the therapy setting, particularly with couples and parents, i.e., relationships, of using collaboration as the primary goal have been, shall we say, exhausting. When a gift of fate, dare I say synchronicity, sent me to the research model for couples therapy of Drs. John and Julie Gottman, I was introduced into a roadmap that has been most effective in my work as well as my 40 year conversation with my own spouse. Their recognition that gridlock will not be resolved satisfactorily by denying it, or regressing back to abusive power, helped me transition to accepting the “circle of compromise” as a worthy goal allowing for the continued conversation perhaps leading to collaboration. The nutshell is that conflict is a given and the goal is not to get rid of fighting, rather to make it more effective. I “fought” with my wife this week … and how much more effective we are after 40 years. Gottman wanted to know what set couples apart who grew old happy with one another, 30% of his sample of over 8000 couples. I am not sure if you are aware of the Gottman model for relationship therapy but just wanted to introduce it as another 40 year research project concerning what works best in relationships. It is particularly noteworthy in challenging many of the perceived axioms of couples therapy associated with the roughly 70% failure of such therapy to be effective even after three years. The motivator to seek conflict resolution, specifically of what they referred to as perpetual problems that will never disappear given personality differences (probably connected to your review of Barry Johnson’s concept), is typically the desire for the marriage to survive a crises, and more often the desire for a better home for one’s children. Finding common ground with the parenting issue is often my best lead into the work that will be required for compromise as the stepping stone if there is to be any hope for collaboration.
3. One of the comments talked about the flight or fight response. Don’t forget the freeze response. This psychophysiological process is instrumental in understanding the Gottman research and how to apply it to the immediacy of effective listening. One of the many phrases I use from the research is “No one listens well when being screamed at.” The antidote is to recognize when the heartbeat is at a sustained 96+ beats per minute and take a break for self-soothing in order to effectively return to the conversation. Minimum timeout is roughly ½ hour and no more than 24 hours to avoid stonewalling on the conversation as a passive aggressive response. In chapter 2, you reminded me of the Mont Fleur Conference and how “.. they asked questions of each other and explained themselves and argued and made jokes.” What a wonderful example of active listening. I wonder how they controlled for DPA (diffuse physiological arousal) given their history. As you discuss the fighting option, does it seem important to recognize the stress response and its interference for active listening and provide an antidote in order to carry the conversation forward?
4. I appreciate your reference to James Hillman who was quite comfortable in his role as a gadfly Jungian analyst (cf. We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World Is Getting Worse). I first read that when I was beginning my career as a psychologist and immediately wrote him a many page letter, stimulated by my frustration that he had written in that book he would no longer do individual therapy while that very weekend Notre Dame was offering a 3 day conference on Hillman’s model of doing psychotherapy! I still have the 6 line note he was kind enough to respond to me. One of those sentences has guided me ever since. “It is not enough to love what you do.”
5. Kholina’s attempt to reframe the words “fighting” and “enemy” seems worthy of discussion as it is a common tactic. While a quick search for the definition of enemy does reveal hatred for that person, (a topic that itself of could be a useful discussion as written about in the most ancient of political texts, the I Ching), the definition of adversary or opponent, hostile and directed or antagonistic against the other seems to be what Kholina is referring to. In the wisdom literature, I wonder what Jesus was thinking in his admonition to love one’s enemy, using the example of the Jewish tax collector who worked for the Romans as the real test as opposed to simply loving one’s neighbor. I have been taught a phrase by one of my great spiritual teachers to “love that person so much you won’t let them hurt you.” This is perceived in the context of allowing that one to suffer the karma, dare we say behavioral consequences, of their hostility. A simpler response by the Hindu Sri Ramakrishna, answering his students concerned about how to love a difficult person was, “Yes, we are to love everybody. And some people we must love from a distance.”
6. I found Skybrook’s comments very useful. I again refer to the Gottman conclusions that without changing the underlying lack of skills in conflict no amount of changing language, stating intent, etc. will be effectively transformative. I return to the first premise of my model that inner transformation of shadow work and the development of the feminine archetype individually is needed. The quote you no doubt are aware of that I heard somewhere and can never actually find is attributed to some Chinese wisdom … “If you want to change the world, change the nation … If you want to change the nation change the state … If you want to change the state … change the town … change the family … change yourself.” … back to the individual as the key to transformation … and, of course, the individual is not separate from the whole … Jung had much to say about this …
7. Your statement that follows is the heart of what I take away from the Gottman model, what I call carry the conversation forward. “Collaborating with diverse others does not usually or primarily involve reaching an agreement on a single truth or answer or solution. It involves finding a way to move forward together in the absence of or beyond such agreements.” I have read elsewhere that old men that are happy in their relationships commonly agreed that their worst mistake was in trying to change their spouse for 20 – 25 years. It was in the acceptance of the diversity without the implied contempt of the others values or even their weaknesses that men, certainly myself, were more skillful at creating trust in the relationship.
8. The following sounds like the heart of effective therapy: “Our objective was not so much to be right—to accurately forecast the future, so much as to be useful—to help the company adapt and thrive in an ever-changing world. This was my first experience with facilitating other people to find their own answers rather than trying to convince them of mine.” I have found that the psychologists who are predictors of behavior have too often done harm, what Marie-Louise von Franz would call psychological rape, shaping and reinforcing vulnerable individuals and family systems based on their beliefs of what “should be” normal or healthy or whatever standard used. Von Franz wrote: “The great danger of all psychological helping professions is the potential to interfere with the other person’s life. Think, for instance, of the idea of what is normal. A therapist may have an idea of normality, and think the other person should become normal. That’s interference, that’s a power attitude. Perhaps destiny, or God, or whatever you want to call the greater powers in the world, don’t want this person to be normal. So how does he know that the patient ought to be normal? On top of that, what he thinks is normal? A therapist’s bourgeois ideas of normality should not be forced upon a poor human being who is destined to be very different.” This may be too much to generalize for your needs, yet I know it to be an important concern in being with the other.
Well … that’s it … I loved the experience and value your work … Thank you for all you do.
Adam Kahane says
Thank you for this thoughtful cornucopia!
You make many references to ideas that intrigue me that I did not know of.
What does the I Ching say about enemies?
I know the “Chinese” quote you refer to, and even included it in “Solving Tough Problems” as rabbinic one. But I am no longer sure that I agree with its suggestion that the answer to everything is to start with yourself (except that, tautologically, the only thing you can change is what you yourself are doing). What was the Jungian idea that you are referencing?
I appreciate your support.
milton dawes says
I like thinking in terms of general semantics and other principles as a personal attitudinal and behavioral paradigm in my approach to understanding conflicts and relationships disagreeableness (and this includes relationship with ‘myselves’.) Thinking in terms of principles simplifies things for me: The universality of their potential applications helps me avoid getting bogged down in details which keep being repeated across historical and ‘present’ times and places.
The following are a few principles that keep bubbling up in reading Adam’s Chapter 4.
1. The “heuristic, conscious times-binding, experimental, let’s see what happens approach’’: I have translated this to “Do what we do to discover what we are doing; to learn about what we are doing; so we can learn from what we are doing; how we can do better what we are doing.” Example: Chapter 4, page 1. ‘The project was not going as I had planned.” We are co-creating a way forward. We cannot know our route before we set out; we cannot predict or control it; we can only discover it along the way.’’ Page 2. ‘‘ …sometimes they end up close to what they originally intended and sometimes they make radical changes…’’ They have to figure out what to do as they are doing it.’’ Page 6…’’It is dangerously unrealistic to assume that your idea will work as planned. In these contexts, the only sensible way to move forward is to take one step at a time and learn as you go.’’ Page 7. ‘’The alternative to executing an agreed plan is experimenting.’’ Page 9. ‘’Tough collaboration is unpredictable and uncontrollable. The only way we can make our way forward is therefore to take one step at a time, sometimes together and sometimes separately, experimenting and learning and adjusting as we go. This requires stretching.” With careful readings, there can be found a few more examples.
2. Non-elementalism: and Organism-as-whole-in environments. This involves not verbally or conceptually separating what in observable actualities is not separate: (mind from body, intellect from emotion, feelings from thinking, feelings, beliefs, thinking from behavior, behavior from environment, and so on.) Our natural tendency is to think, talk, behave, believe, etc., elementalistically. We are behaving elementalistically when we ignore “time, place”, and our individual contributions to a situation. Page 1. ‘… I had learned a conventional technocratic model…I had seen that this model was the foundation for conventional strategic planning which, he noted, ‘’falls into ‘the rationalist school,’ which codifies thought and action separately.’’ Page 2. ‘This strategy ‘‘the war on drugs’’ centers on the prohibition of the consumption of certain listed drugs…’ I see this as ignoring “human nature” to try things, to experiment…which have been going on for centuries. We can minimize our elementalistic tendencies through “visualization”: deliberate structural imagining” and with thinking modifications such as “As far as I know at this time”; to the best of my knowledge; as I understand this; to me”, and so on.”
3. Non-allness and non-identity: We cannot imagine, think, say, know,
understand, believe, describe, etc., all about anything (including ourselves).
In identification we treat two things as if they were the same…These two
principles are popularly know as “The word is not the thing (it refers to”);
and “The map is not the territory (it is a map of).” “Maps” involve our plans,
ideas, beliefs, expectations, assumptions, opinions, theories, knowledge, what
we sense, etc.) When we forget these principles, which we do naturally, we
will non-consciously treat what we know, believe, understand, etc., as so…and
behave accordingly. We have a natural tendency to operate from “allness”, and
“identification”. At the heart of our relationships problems (at personal,
societal, national and international levels) we will find “allnessing and
identifications”. Example, page 1. “The tacit underlying assumption is that there
is one best solution…” An example of “allness” and “identification” if there was
not an awareness (at the time) that one was “assuming”. In a world of infinite
potentials and unforeseeable changes (as far as we know) there could be more
than one “best solution”. One might be better off thinking “Among the \best
potential solutions…” or ‘’From our/my present understanding, the solution I/we
think most likely to work…’’ (But we don’t usually think and talk that way.
Without training we talk “cewt’’ (culturally expected ways of thinking and
talking))…a relatively safer way of interacting, and also more socially powerful to
say “the best, the right, the only” than “In my opinion”, or “I think”, etc. “. I try to
avoid words like ‘‘best, only, right, same”, among others. I find they tend to
trigger disagreements. For instance, when we use the word ‘‘the best’’
indiscriminately, we generally don’t ask ‘Best for all times, places and occasions?
‘’How can I know before this solution is implemented that it will be ‘the best’?
What makes it the best? Based on what/and whose standards?
4. Fractals…structural similarity, analogues, this is somewhat like that….
We live in a fractal Universe. We are part of Universe and will tend to behave like the rest of Universe. We tend to think of nature as trees, and rivers, and flowers, and rain…We don’t usually think of others and ourselves as aspects of nature. One way to understand ourselves and our behavioral tendencies is to observe what goes on in the natural world (and this includes others). We can learn about the ways of Universe by noticing our ways; and we can learn about ourselves by studying Universe. So we can learn a great deal about others by observing ourselves. An example: When Adam noticed his behavior in his team (end of page 4.): …’’I could see that I was angry at them for the same behavior that I myself was exhibiting: doing everything in my power to have things be my way.” “Get things to be “my way” is usually the start out operating paradigm for many in tough collaborations. When we catch it in our own behaviors, we are more likely to anticipate and recognize it in others.
Adam, I think the book when finished could be a text book on tough collaborating.