Wednesday, October 29, 2008

[Long Range Thinking] Negotiating through a complex problem (Part 2)

In 'Solving Tough Problems', Adam Kahane talks about his involvement in a negotiation about what post-apartheid South Africa would look like. Could they achieve the seemingly-impossible, and negotiate a peaceful transition in power that would lead to a prosperous country? The negotiations were held at the Mont Fleur Conference Center. What follows is part 2 of a series of direct quotes from the book:


The first brainstorming exercise produced 30 stories. The team combined these and narrowed them down to nine for further work, and set up for some teams to flesh out the scenarios along social, political, economic, and international dimensions. The subteams worked from September through December, when the whole team reconvened at Montt Fleur for a second workshop.

They first addressed in nine scenarios in more depth and then narrowed the field to four that they thought, given the current situation in the country, were the most plausible and important.

After that workshop, the team went back to their own organisations and networks to test these four scenarios. At a third workshop, in March 1992, the participants reviewed and refined the write-ups of the final scenarios and agreed how they would be published and disseminated.

Finally, in August, the team held a fourth, one-day workshop to present and test the logic of the scenarios with a broader and more senior group. The team's final scenarios asked the question: How will the South African transition go, and will the country succeed in "taking off"? Each of the four stories gave a different answer and had a different message that mattered to the country in 1992.

Once the four scenarios had been agreed on, the team introduced them into the national conversation. They inserted a 25 page booklet into the leading weekly newspaper, arranged for the work to be discussed in the media, and distributed a cartoon video of the four stories. Most importantly, they ran more than 100 workshops for leadership groups of their own and other influential political, business and civic organisations, where the four scenarios were presented and debated.
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