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Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 42 of the controversy, former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, in the HBO series The Wire, cast Schmoke himself as a public health official and depicted a police commander as the spear- head of the medicalization approach. Simon wanted to show how entrenched thinking—reinforced within the organizations created by that thinking—makes creative approaches almost impossible, because they are literally unthink- able. At a critical moment in the show, the police commander meets with his top officers. They tell him that his approach, while noble, just won’t work. Harsh, violent enforcement—war—will be the best policy. “You mean the same old thing?” he asks. His most loyal sergeant replies, “Yeah, boss, the same old thing—but better.” The same...old...thing...but better. This is so often the approach we take—in our own lives and in our communities—when we face what leadership consultant and fa- cilitator Adam Kahane calls, understatedly, “tough problems.” The same old thing doesn’t work, Kah- ane says, because when it comes to complex, tough problems—global warming, food cri- ses, civil war, terror, drugs, urban decay, per- sistent poverty—we have to go beyond the approaches that got us there in the first place. Kahane, who was a key participant in the Mont Fleur process that helped bring about the peaceful transition from apartheid to democratic rule in South Africa, is one of a loose but growing collection of thinkers, ac- tivists, academics, and social entrepreneurs who are searching for the “unthinkable”— the new ways that we can’t see because of our old ways of looking. These thinkers and advocates have not formed any formal association or move- ment (the very looseness of their association is seen as a virtue, in fact), but they all firmly believe that the good old world we’ve come to know and love is coming apart at the seams. Systems of all kinds are breaking down and will continue to do so. In response, they champion ways of seeing and acting that acknowledge that the world is a chaotic, deeply interdependent place, a place that won’t yield to attempts to overpower it. We must come to understand, they argue, the nature of complexity, chaos, and interconnected- ness—and to train ourselves in ways of acting that embrace this unmistakable reality. Adam Kahane says our approach to the future must meet three criteria. It must simultaneously be systematic (not piecemeal and divided into silos), participative (involving many people’s ideas, energy, talent, and expertise), and emergent (able to move and adapt nimbly in a minefield of uncertainty). The hope is that we will act with courage and creativity; the fear is that if we don’t, the world will face debilitating collapse on many fronts. Over the past several months, I have been poring over the books and papers of four thinkers looking for new ways to solve global problems: Kahane, who wrote Solving Tough Problems; Thomas Homer-Dixon, author of The Upside of Down; Paul Hawken, who wrote Blessed Unrest; and Meg Wheatley, author most recently of Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. I interviewed each of them about the very difficult chal- lenges the world faces today and what we can do that doesn’t simply amount to “the same old thing—but better.” ADAM KAHANE was working as an analyst in the strategic planning de- partment of Royal Dutch/Shell in 1991 when his career took an unexpected turn. Kahane was doing “scenario plan- ning,” a sophisticated tool for navigating a complex future that was pioneered in the 1970s by Pierre Wack, head of Shell’s economic forecasting group in France. Because of Shell’s expertise in scenario planning and its long involvement in South Africa, the company was asked to send a planner to facilitate an exercise in charting the future of a post-apartheid South Africa. The exercise brought together twen- ty-two influential South Africans, lead- ers from both the anti-apartheid oppo- sition and their adversaries within the white community. Over the course of a year, they held four intensive meetings at the Mont Fleur Conference Center on a wine estate in the mountains just outside Cape Town. “They saw this as an opportunity,” Kahane says, “to participate in giv- ing birth to the ‘New South Africa.’ ” The hallmark of Mont Fleur was that people with very different perspectives and power bases were able to envision the future together. This helped immeasur- ably during the radical transformation the country underwent. Inspired by this success, Kahane has continued to travel the world at the behest of parties groping their way through intrac- table problems and crises. He has worked on post-war rebuilding in Guatemala, contested elections in the Philippines, civic rejuve- nation in the United States, judicial reform in Argentina, and child malnutrition in India, to name a few. Kahane knows that none of these initiatives in solving problems through dialogue has been an We don’t have a choice between power and love. We have to do both. ADAM KAHANE BARRY BOYCE is senior editor of the Shambhala Sun and co-author of the recently published book The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos and Conflict—Strategies from the Art of War. PHOTOBYJOEMcCARRON SEPT 40-47.indd 42 SEPT 40-47.indd 42 7/3/08 1:31:01 PM 7/3/08 1:31:01 PM