Book Reviews of some priceless books..!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Solving Tough Problems

Solving Tough Problems

Listen to this article...! Listen to this article

“When I was in college – I thought that the world’s toughest problems would be solved by the world’s smartest people and I wanted to be one of them. Our textbooks contained questions at the end of each chapter and before the exam I worked through every exercise so I could get a perfect grade for there would only be ONE right answer.”

“But the world doesn’t work the way my ONE right answer textbooks said it did. Something else goes on that drives this world and I must find it……”

This is inner voice of a professional (could be you, me anybody) personified by
Adam Kahane – the author of a seminal book ‘Solving Tough Problems’ that offers a new approach to addressing peacefully our most complex challenges. Our 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 problems. But it doesn't work for the complex, unfamiliar, conflictual problems that we increasingly face. When we try to solve these problems using traditional approaches, the problems end up either getting stuck.

In this inspiring and thought provoking book Adam Kahane reflects that we can learn to create environments that enable new ideas and creative solutions to emerge - even in the most stuck, polarized contexts. Through an unexpected experience in South Africa during the transition away from apartheid, he became 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; and in Israel and Cyprus. 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.

So here’s what he suggests as the mantra (I have tried to keep it as terse as possible) :

  • Breathing In – Many of us get struck by holding on tightly to our opinions and plans, identities and truths. The pattern of not talking and not listening to others is a symptom of being struck. In order to observe the world on a broader perspective we should start listening actively. The more open we are – the more open can we be to things happening around us and inside us.
  • Talking Politely – Politeness is not a way of talking. When we are being polite (“How are you?” “I’m fine”) – we just try to fit in and keeping the social network as a whole unchanged. Talking only about concepts is one way of being polite. When somebody speaks personally, passionately and from the heart – the conversation deepens. When a team develops a habit of speaking openly, then the problem they are working on begins to shift. Thus, politeness maintains a status quo and everyone sees him or herself as a key team player as well.
  • Speaking Up – To change the status quo we must speak up. Often this is extremely difficult. People hesitate to say what they are thinking for many reasons, not only extraordinary but ordinary ones as well: fear of being disliked or considered impolite etc. Unless we openly speak about the problem at hand – we can not concentrate on it holistically.
  • Being Reflective – To create new realities – we have to listen reflectively. It is just not enough to hear the chorus of other voices – we MUST hear the contribution of our own voice. We have to recognize ourselves as actors who influence the outcome of the solution to a problem under investigation.
  • Empathy does wonders – We can not develop creative solutions to complex problems unless we see, hear, open up to and include the humane aspect of all stakeholders and ourselves. We have to learn to listen to people in a way that encourages them to realize their own potential and the potential in their situation. This is what empathy is all about – listening from within others’ hearts.

Finally, Adam accentuates upon the fact that a problem that is generatively complex can not be solved with a pre-packaged solution from the past. A solution has to be worked out as the situation unfolds through a creative, emergent and generative process as described above. Engaging and inspiring, personal and practical, this book offers a down-to-earth, hopeful way forward: a way of "open-minded, open-hearted, open-willed talking and listening" vital for creating a lasting change.

Having said everything - now the question arises – how we can change ourselves to allow us to contribute in creative and quick problem solving? The answer as you might have guess by now – is PRACTICE. Like to practice meditating, we simply take notice of where our mind is and continue over & over to bring our attention back to our breath – likewise, we simply have to take notice of how we are and continue to bring our attention back to being present, relaxing & opening up. Fortunately, we have plethora of opportunities to do this practice – including in every conversation, in every context, every day.

Lets start participating in creating another, better world.
I am in…are you? Do post in your comments folks :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in and I would love to make this world a better place, a more beautiful place. And I agree with the funda - "simple, but not easy". This is so very true in real life. I would love to tell my boss that his approach to the project execution is wrong and we can do it better. but its not easy to say it to him. Its simple to marry the girl of my dreams, but it is not at all easy to tell her this. And this is the reason I am still single. Coming to best practices, I agree, but not all situations are alike. All in all, the steps that Kahane mentioned are not unknown to us. We have seen them or heard them in a different way or a different form. And the very fact that I implement them has made me befriend the girl of my dreams... though I am stuck again. The reason being - PRACTICE. How can I practice this... God!!! "Agar dil mein chaah ho to raah zaroor mil jaati hai". Lets see where my chaah and raah takes me. I do not wish to go against this book, but just expressed my feelings. Cheers!!!

Wednesday, 30 August, 2006

Blogger Tanya said...

I am also in to imbibe the steps of the mantra to the peace and glory of the beautiful world..Very well writen book review!! When life gves you opportunities, never pull down the curtains of shadow; similarly never say "NO" to even life's toughest problems,just go straight to face the sunlight directly!!

As they say - hard work does wonders indeed ! :-)

Thursday, 31 August, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tips sound so Kool :)

Friday, 15 September, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review...keep reading more books and posting more reviews !! Really helps us all !!! :)


Friday, 03 November, 2006

Anonymous Karthik said...

Good review...keep reading more books and posting more reviews !! Really helps us all !!! :)


Friday, 03 November, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, I havent read this book.. but getting an insight of what it would be, I do not think, I would like to read this book..the reason being appears to be saying the same concept ever up.. do not be narrow minded.. listen to others and problem gets solved.. but still problem exists isnt it ? opening up requires keeping one egos aside..I guess that is the most difficult problem with our own self.. its because of egos and intrinsic nature of humans that problems arise and exists..

Monday, 06 November, 2006

Anonymous Dushyant said...

I agree with the post. One suggestion: let's try to pull up some examples from our day-to-day life, to make it more practical (reading it just seems theory).

Tuesday, 07 November, 2006

Anonymous Vivek Jadon said...

Hi Chinmay,
Nice review of Solving tough problems
Great that you can take time out do the readngs.

Vivek Jadon

Monday, 10 December, 2007

Anonymous Anant G Nadkarni said...

Dear Chinmay,

When my search engine, Mr. Lucas Saldhana, stumbled upon your article, I felt like sharing with you that this simple but not easy man, Mr. Adam Kahane, is not only a close friend but visited our office and spoke to the TCCIat a dinner. The Indian version of the book that you read and printed out by Tata McGraw-Hill was hatched in my office!

In case you want to know more, do let us have your telephone no. and you may join the bandwagon. Keep Reading good books thats how you meet great people.

Warm regards,
Anant G Nadkarni
Vice President – Group Corporate Sustainability
Tata Council for Community Initiatives
2nd Floor, FortChambers– C Wing
Tamarind Lane, Fort, Mumbai 400 001

Monday, 27 October, 2008

Blogger Chinmay said...

Thanks for the encouraging words Mr. Anand ! Genuine Appreciation Notes from distinguished people like you are always special & confidence boosters. That said-an email mentioning my geo. co-ordinates and cell# etc. is on its way. I am so eager to talk & discuss plenty of crazy ideas I have :)

Shubh Deepawali !


Tuesday, 28 October, 2008


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