Adam Kahane has pioneered the use of scenarios as a tool for multi-stakeholder problem solving – as a way for leaders to talk and think together, in order to reach a shared understanding of their shared problem situation and of what they must do to address it. In 1991, Kahane was head of Social, Political, Economic and Technological Scenarios for Royal Dutch/Shell in London, when he was unexpectedly asked to facilitate the scenario conversation in South Africa among politicians, community leaders, businessmen and trade unionists – black and white, left and right – that became known as the Mont Fleur Scenario Project. This project played an important role in the shaping of the post-apartheid political and economic landscape. Inspired by this experience, Kahane ended up leaving Shell and throwing himself into the development of this dialogic approach to peacefully addressing highly complex, stuck problem situations. Since then he has led many Mont Fleur-type multi-stakeholder dialogue-and-action processes, throughout Africa, Europe, and North, Central and South America. Kahane has just published a book about what he has learned from this work, entitled Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities (San Francisco: Berrett–Koehler, 2004). The thesis of the book is that our most common way of solving problems is to use our expertise and authority to apply piece-by-piece, tried-and-true ‘best practices’. This works for simple, familiar, uncontentious problems, but does not work for the complex, unfamiliar, conflictual problems that we all increasingly face. When we try to solve these complex problems using our common way, the problems end up either being stuck or becoming unstuck only by force. We therefore need to learn another, uncommon way. The essence of this other, open way, Kahane suggests, is the practice of open-minded, open-hearted, open-willed talking and listening. Below we have excerpted a chapter from Kahane's book, about his experience in and around a landmark scenario project in Colombia. The chapter deals with one of the key transitions in moving from closed talking and listening, which merely re-enacts the current reality, to open talking and listening, through which new and better realities are born: speaking up. Development (2004) 47, 95–98. doi:10.1057/palgrave.development.1100079
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