Adam Kahane talks about how we work together in our polarized society

Just in case you forgot about it last time Thanksgiving dinner with your whole family, with our country (and really most of the world) is highly polarized. Even if you go to Colorado or Oklahoma to find your favorite people, you’ll probably find yourself working with people who don’t think the same way (especially if you’re selected) Congress). Adam Kahane, director Reos Partners, Has been trying to turn off polarization for more than 30 years.

Adam Kahane has facilitated collaboration between management teams, politicians, philanthropists, generals, guerrillas, civil servants, trade unionists, community activists, clergy, and artists in more than 50 countries and around the world. Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Juan Manuel Santos have praised his work and methods.

Adam Kahane shares his ideas for collaboration and how he wants to achieve this in his latest book, Facilitate progress: how to remove obstacles, bridge differences and move forward together. It makes two very important points. First, there is usually no good alternative to collaboration if you run a business or government. Second, people do not have to fully agree to cooperate on what is important to all involved.

We asked Adam Kahane what the bad polarization is, how it can be managed, and why the more distributed it is, the more we need to look for ways to talk to each other.

I think a lot of us underestimate how polarized the U.S. is because we’ve entered into communities of people who think we are. What do the data tell us about polarization?

It tells us that a minority of Americans (only 4 out of 10) believe that there is hope for bridging and uniting differences between us.

Worse, this polarization extends beyond the US. It happens everywhere in the world: in Canada, where I come from, and in other countries that I know and have worked well with, like Colombia or Thailand or South Africa or the UK. . We are witnessing increasing polarization, division, and the demonization of others around the world.

It’s not about people disagreeing with each other or believing that other people are wrong. They think, “You are evil. You are a devil, and how can I work with the devil? “

This amplification of polarization has dangerous consequences.

With the increasing use of COVID-19 pandemic vaccination orders, what is your advice for managers who want to bring your staff to the office but know that not all team members are ready to be vaccinated?

My advice is to know that management involves doing two things at once: taking care of the health and integrity of the organization to function well, and also taking care of the interests, priorities, and needs of team members.

For example, a manager should not say, “The most important thing is the overall good, so remove it and fill it out.” Not even a director should say the opposite, which is, “Well, you should do what works best for you.”

Managers need to move between these two opposing positions. Should everyone be in the office? Will some work, at least for a while, to keep working from a distance? Are there jobs that require less contact with others? Or, when you look at all of this, is the answer “No, we understand you don’t like it, but that’s the only thing that will work for the organization”?

What are the groups needed to move forward in solving problems when everyone disagrees?

I would love to share a story about this. 25 years ago, I worked in Colombia during their civil war. In 2016, after that job, one of the men I worked with Juan Manuel Santos managed to negotiate the end of this 52-year-old war and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace Prize bureau issued a statement stating, among other things, that the work he and I had done 20 years earlier was an important milestone in achieving peace.

Naturally, I was very happy, but I didn’t understand why our past work has been so important. When I asked him this question a few months later, Juan Manuel Santos replied, “Through my work together I realized that it is possible to work with people you don’t agree with and will never agree with.”

Most people believe that everyone has to agree in order to move forward. But a better way to think is this: “We may not agree, but we will agree together. We’ll talk and have a drink, and we’ll see that we agree on some things. ”A team needs to find a place to agree — and keep moving.

Keeping the team moving is important for two reasons. First, when we agree that what should be done (what you should do, what we should do, or what we should do together) we build trust in each other and in our ability to work together.

The second reason is that working together reduces our disagreements. Yes, we still think we disagree with X, but X is not as important as we thought. So we can agree that we don’t agree with X and focus on other things.

What is the biggest hurdle in overcoming serious disagreements and how can a facilitator address them?

One of the biggest obstacles is when people don’t listen. This is difficult to overcome, especially when people are in conflict, lack confidence in each other, or are afraid.

A facilitator can help by taking things as they are, what they should be doing or what they are thinking about the truth and interrupting as if they are on the chord in front of you. You can look at it, I can look at it and we can talk about it. Sure, at the end of the conversation your position won’t change, but you can see things differently.

Having informal conversations during coffee breaks, taking walks as a couple, eating meals together, or using Lego bricks to build challenging patterns can help people explore ideas in an intermittent and even way.

Using these methods, we are saying, “I will share how I think about this, but I am open to change my mind. Maybe we will agree. Maybe I’ll understand why you even think about what you do. It is not without information, belligerent or my enemy. Even if we don’t agree, there are things we can do together. “

You have a new book under the title Facilitate progress. What prompted you to write this book now?

The world needs more and better cooperation. We need to find ways to work together because we can’t just deal with today’s urgent issues. To do this, we need more and better ease. Traditional ways of facilitating it are inappropriate, so I wrote this book about a third type of ease. transformative ease, which allows people to move forward together.

Are you hopeful that tensions in society will be eased?

Although I am not optimistic that tensions will be eased in our society, I am hopeful. My first-hand experience has shown me that it is possible for people to work together and move forward together, even with those who disagree, trust or disagree.

I saw this with my own eyes. I know it can work. I know it can be taught. I know it can be learned. I believe that sharing examples of success, sharing practices and recipes for success — the core of the book — will allow people to work productively.

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