(Published at IndrastraGlobal and Amazon)
Adam Kahane, Collaborating with the Enemy; How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust. Pages 130. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Oakland, CA. ISBN: 978-1-62656-822-8
I had met Adam during one of his visits to New Delhi. I was impressed by his simple but determined outlook on resolving conflicts. He came across as a sincere advocate of taking All the stake holders on board while resolving a complex conflict irrespective of the time taken in this process. This book is an essence of Adam’s vast personal experience in dealing with conflicts in widely different global regions.
The book is divided in to seven chapters and centres around the fundamental theme of moving ahead positively in an environment which appears to have reached an impasse. His method may enable an alternative future for stake holders even in the absence of major agreements. The stake holders need to commit to only change in prevalent conditions without shedding their stated positions or their own answers to the problem.
His concept of stretch collaboration, as different from normal collaboration, requires that three fundamental shifts be made in one’s working methodology. Firstly, in how one relates with fellow collaborators, one must stretch away from focusing narrowly on the collective goals and harmony of one’s team, and move toward embracing both conflict and connection within and beyond the team. Secondly, in how one advances one’s work, one must stretch away from insisting on clear agreements about the problem, the solution, and the plan, and move toward experimenting systematically with different perspectives and possibilities. And lastly, in how one participates in the current situation—in the role one plays—one must stretch away from trying to change what other people are doing, and move toward entering fully into the action, willing to change him/her self. Stretch collaboration is challenging because all three of these stretches require one to do the opposite of what seems natural.
This book presents a theory and practice of such a stretch collaboration. Chapter 1 explains why collaboration is necessary and why it is intrinsically difficult. Chapter 2 suggests a way to decide when to collaborate and when instead to force, adapt, or exit. Chapter 3 specifies the limitations of conventional collaboration and the narrow conditions under which it is applicable. Chapter 4 outlines stretch collaboration, and chapters 5, 6, and 7 elaborate the three stretches it entails: embracing conflict and connection, experimenting a way forward, and stepping into the game. The conclusion offers a program of exercises to put these ideas into practice.
The author acknowledges that most people find these stretches unfamiliar and uncomfortable because they demand changing ingrained behaviours. The way to learn new behaviours is to practice them over and over. And the way to start practicing is to try out a few simple new actions, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, adjust and repeat, and build from there. Adam provides a structured program at the end of the book to practice stretch collaboration which could turn out to be a game changer in almost any type of a conflict situation be it at personal, community or national level.
A must read for everybody who wishes to seriously engage in conflict resolution and make this world a better and peaceful place in future.