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A Rediscovery

As I was packing for my trip, I came across a book that I had read a few years ago called “Solving Tough Problems” (Kahane) that I highly recommend buying. In it, the author Adam Kahane describes his experiences helping groups solve our most pressing issue – how to work together to solve the problems we have created. Kahane’s 25 years of experiences facilitating and leading teams from such diverse groups  such as Royal Dutch/Shell, Intel, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Federal Express, Government of Canada, European Commission, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions is an inspiring read. He has also facilitated cross-organizational leadership teams. For example, in South Africa in the post-apartheid era and in post-genocide Guatemala.

Three Types of Complexity

The book discusses three types of complexity:  dynamic, generative, and social. High dynamic complexity is when cause and effect are far apart in space and time. For example, how apartheid-era educational policies affect present day employment prospects for black South Africans. High generative complexity occurs when the future is unfamiliar and unpredictable. Under these circumstances, solutions cannot be created in advanced based on what worked in the past, but rather must be developed as the situation unfolds. Finally, high social complexity occurs when people who are part of the problem look at things very differently, with different assumptions, values, and knowledge.

Summary of Key Learnings

Kuhane summarizes his key learnings in ten suggestions:

  1. Pay      attention to your state of being and how you are talking and      listening. Notice your own assumptions, reactions, contradictions,      anxieties, prejudices, and projections.


  2. Speak      up. Notice and say what you are thinking, feeling, and wanting.


  3. Remember      that you don’t know the truth about anything. When you think you are      absolutely certain about the way things are, “add in my opinion”      or “from my perspective” to your sentence. Don’t take yourself      too seriously.


  4. Engage      with and listen to others who have a stake in the system. Seek out      people who have different, even opposing perspectives from yours.      Stretch beyond your comfort zone.


  5. Reflect      on your own role in the system. Examine how what you are doing or      not doing is contributing to things being done they way they are.      Also, you can’t be part of the solution if you are not part of the      problem.


  6. Listen      with empathy.


  7. Listen      to what is being said not just by yourself and others but through      all of you. Listen to what is emerging in the system as a whole.      Listen with your heart. Speak from your heart.


  8. Stop      talking. Camp out beside the questions and let answers come to you.


  9. Relax      and be fully present. Open up your mind and heart and will. Open      yourself up to being touched and transformed.


  10. Try      out these suggestions and notice what happens. Keep on practicing.

Co-creating in Kenya

In my opinion, this exemplifies the greatest that community has to offer. It is the bringing together of people to co-create a new reality that is rooted in truth but and is fed by our collective dreams. After re-reading the book, it occurred to me that we do, in fact, have an opportunity here to help co-create a new reality for these group of young adults. I will need to be fully present to listen openly and honestly to their stories,  challenges, hopes, and dreams; similarly, I need to be willing to share mine.

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