Viewpoint | Teamwork: Dealing With Differences (Part 2)

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Last issue we looked at a new business book published in 2017 by Montreal writer Adam Kahane entitled Collaborating with the Enemy—How to Work with People You Don’t Agree With, Like or Trust.

An interesting title for sure and a thought provoking concept in our industry where collaboration with other suppliers, employees, insurers, finance and so on is seen as key. As the book spells it out, “we are trying to get something done that is crucial. Collaboration seems both impera- tive and impossible. What do we do?”

Like many conceptual books, Kahane’s is not an “easy” read. I found myself re-reading sections to be sure I was getting the gist, and it was only when I nished the whole thing that I began to get a sense of what he was trying to say.

Along the way, there are some spectacular insights as Kahane describes the four ways to deal with a problem: collaborate, force, adapt, and exit. Can we change a situation? Can we live with it as it is? Can we change it unilaterally? Exit unilaterally? These questions direct our choices.

But if we can’t bear the situation as it is, can’t force a change and don’t want to adapt, we must collaborate—like it or not. Does this sound familiar to your business life (or your personal life, when you get right down to it)?

How to do it?

Identifying the circumstances for necessary collaboration is a first step, of course. Then what? Kahane describes “stretch collaboration,” a process that requires much more than simply making a deal or an agreement. It involves the process of creating that plan and working forward even in an atmosphere of uncertainty and conflicting goals. My own reaction was easier said than done but of course Kahane has nailed it. That’s the process we really need to follow to generate a successful enterprise (or happy home, as we all know.)

Many of the examples Kahane uses to illustrate his approach to the process—drawn from international diplomacy or even war and revolution—are more complex than a typical business meeting. I re-read many pages drawing parallels to my own experiences. I concluded that Kahane has really been there and done it, so his insights are well worth digesting.

The last section of the book presents a guide to “stretch collaboration” aimed to help you be a co-creator of a situation rather than a director or simply a spectator. Stretch collaboration, he asserts, requires seeing our- selves as part of, rather than apart from, situations we are trying to address. We unbalance the discussion by being the centre of the world, yet we remove ourselves from that world: “I am caught in traffic” rather than “I am traffic.”

The author lays out a six-week approach to stretching with ideas how to move along the way forward.

While Kahane’s writing initially appears a bit touchy-feely rather than a simple how- to approach, it really makes some very eye- opening points. As Kahane concludes in his book, your goal is to learn and adapt while learning along the way.

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