This is Adam Kahane's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?
We Need to Learn How To Work Together
We face a widening gap between our need to work together and our ability to do so.
Our societies are becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent. What people over there, on the other side of town or the other side of the world, are doing—economically, politically, socially, technologically, environmentally—is increasingly affecting the lives of people over here. It is therefore increasingly difficult for us either to grasp or to control what is happening to us.
We are increasingly unable to deal with our challenges on our own, or only with our friends and colleagues. We increasingly need to be able to work also with strangers and opponents—with people whom we don’t know or understand or trust.
At the same time, our societies are becoming increasingly fragmented and polarised. The controls and norms and solidarity and trust that have kept us together are weakening. The ideological and cultural and class differences amongst us are growing. We are increasingly free and so also increasingly different from and separated from and at odds with one another.
This widening gap between what we need to do and what we are able to do means that we increasingly find ourselves unable to make progress on our most vital challenges. Increasingly we find ourselves stuck: locally, nationally and globally.
The only way we will be able to get unstuck is to learn to work together—not only with like-minded friends and colleagues, but also with unlike-minded strangers and opponents. This is neither easy nor straightforward. But it is possible. I have seen it with my own eyes, including in the most extreme contexts.
I am trying to understand and apply, in both extreme and ordinary contexts, the principles and practices that we need to be able to work together, and thereby to make progress on our most vital challenges.
Adam Kahane is a partner in the Cambridge, Massachusetts office of Reos Partners and an Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford. He is the author of Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities and Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change. And here's a scoop. Adam has just finished his new book, Transformative Scenario Planning: Creating new futures When Things Aren't Working. It will be published in October, 2012 by Berrett-Koehler in San Francisco.
Note: I am releasing individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012? on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Cheryl Rose, Jacques Dufresne, John Stapleton, Delyse Sylvester and Peter Deitz . You can access the accumulated essays here.