Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change Paperback – Jan 4 2010
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About the Author
Adam Kahane is a partner in Reos Partners (www.reospartners.com), an international organisation dedicated to supporting and building capacity for innovative collective action in complex social systems. He is also a Visiting Practitioner at the University of Oxford and the University of Waterloo.
Adam is a leading organizer, designer and facilitator of processes through which business, government, and civil society leaders can work together to address their toughest challenges. He has worked in more than fifty countries, in every part of the world, with executives and politicians, generals and guerillas, civil servants and trade unionists, community activists and United Nations officials, clergy and artists.
Adam is the author of Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2004), about which Nelson Mandela said: "This breakthrough book addresses the central challenge of our time: finding a way to work together to solve the problems we have created." He is also the author of Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2010).
During the early 1990s, Adam was head of Social, Political, Economic and Technological Scenarios for Royal Dutch Shell in London. Previously he held strategy and research positions with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (San Francisco), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (Paris), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Vienna), the Institute for Energy Economics (Tokyo), and the Universities of Toronto, British Columbia, California, and the Western Cape.
In 1991 and 1992, Adam facilitated the Mont Fleur Scenario Project, in which a diverse group of South Africans worked together to effect the transition to democracy. Since then he has led many such seminal cross-sectoral dialogue-and-action processes, throughout the world. He was one of the sixteen outstanding individuals featured in Fast Company's first annual "Who's Fast," and is a member of the World Academy of Art and Science, the Commission on Globalisation, the Aspen Institute's Business Leaders' Dialogue, the Society for Organizational Learning, the Global Leadership Network, and Global Business Network.
Adam has a B.Sc. in Physics (First Class Honors) from McGill University (Montreal), an M.A. in Energy and Resource Economics from the University of California (Berkeley), and an M.A. in Applied Behavioral Science from Bastyr University (Seattle). He has also studied negotiation at Harvard Law School and cello performance at Institut Marguerite-Bourgeoys.
Adam and his wife Dorothy live in Montreal and Cape Town.
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As the journey unfolds, it is very much as if the reader is standing next to Adam Kahane in many of his change labs. One can feel very close to the best kind of learning: by doing. The book seems to be written from the standpoint of love, and Adam is generous in his sharing of powerful experiences.
This is a learning tool for all practitioners leading groups through change processes.
It is also much more interesting to learn from what was tried and didn't work as well as the successes. There is a wealth of new ideas here and it engages you with a voice of exploration that starts you imagining yourself in the same situation and what you might try. In this way the wisdom is embedded and useful. How many times have we read a book that was interesting but didn't stay with you? This book is in my heart.
I had one difference of opinion with Kahane around the separation of power and love. I think love is a power. There is power based on fear which is the ability to assert your will even against the will of others; and there is power rooted in love which is the ability to be all you can be and to want others to be all that they can be. I just read the book applying this concept and it was really powerful. I blogged it on archetypalleadership.me.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to develop their negotiation skills.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I liked the first half of the book the most, where I was provided with some interesting viewpoints and a language to understand and differ from generative/degenerative power and same for love. The second half of the book is more confusing and less clear.
I am inspired by the concept of combining love and power in order to manage things in the most constructive ways and I believe most leaders and innovators can be in inspired by reading the book. However, I would personally like some more insights on how to choose love in the middle of a political system. I find it challenging and difficult to keep track of love when acting in a political system. I would enjoy reading more about that.
Overall I recommend the book to anybody seeking to understand how to manage and enable sustainable change.
The key message is that both Power (the drive for self-realisation) and Love (the need for unity) are necessary, and that there is an inherent dilemma between the two. Just like your two legs, they should be used in dynamic balance to be able to walk smoothly.
I really enjoyed the Falling, Stumbling and Walking chapters where Kahane highlights his theories through examples from both his work and personal life. I also appreciated that he was not shy in sharing his blind spots and mistakes so the reader can also learn from them.
I think Power and Love is a book that can be read several times with different mindsets - e.g. a quick entertaining read, a more reflective experience and also great for a book club / discussion group.
Thank you for writing about this, I now understand what was always going wrong in our different attempts to work together.
Many of these people then went on to read Adam's first book on the subject. I would now like warmly to encourage you to read this his second. It is helpful in that it builds on the themes of the first book which are now enlarged upon and deepened through the author being able to reflect on what he himself has learned in his earlier attempts to become literate in both love and power.
The issue of being able to be both an individual and to work with other people in such a way that a task is done without sacrificing selfhood is a pressing one. When a group of people are both self-realized and willing to put who they are at the service of something that they all recognize as important they experience not only the joy of community; they are also effective way beyond their ordinary expectations. Furthermore what they do together is rich and original, what the designer William McDonough calls, `piquant'. Goethe said that we develop our character in the full flow of life and we develop our gifts alone. This is interesting in connection with the theme of this book because in many professions and in many social situations the issue of character is subsumed by the agenda of the social group or organization. People find themselves saying `I am just doing my job' at best keeping their conscience at home in the private sphere. The issue of developing our gifts, on the other hand, is often just completely ignored, mostly because people feel that they need to make a living and would never be able to do that with something they simply loved. They feel that unless their gift is good enough to put them among the great people, remembered by history, it shouldn't be given priority. This division of ourselves and this neglect of what we love, in art or play, leads to a lack of congruence between our inner and outer values. It is important to be able to act from the base line of our conscience wherever we are and it is important to be creative, to play, not because what we make will be great but because making it helps us to remain in touch with the vital wellspring of our inner selves. Every attempt we make to work together will need this kind of whole self, a self who wishes to manifest its potential, to be aware of and even in service of the community and to maintain health and strength to live in a sustainable way. It is these possibilities that this book addresses.
What is meant by power and love is explored at the hand of Paul Tillich and Martin Luther King and through the author's own attempts to become literate in both. Using stories and concepts, describing success and failures, he makes these two aspects of our humanity accessible and therefore applicable to our own experience and situations.
Two other aspects of life are discussed. They are in my view as important as the issue of power and love. The first is the role of the peacemaker in creating toxic groups. The peacemaker as described here could probably be called a degenerate peacemaker. This is the person who will not allow risks and closes down processes and prevents transformation. This kind of peacemaking, rather than helping, reinforces the status quo and its abuses, often allowing the innovative and original members of the group to be frustrated in manifesting their essential contribution. For me this is one of the most essential chapters of the book because this aspect of community and group disruption has a huge impact both in the smallest group such as a family or a group of friends and in wider communities of every sort. The problem of power becoming abusive is something most of us are familiar with. The misuse of peacemaking causes just as much havoc. It was through Adam that I first heard this described though I had experienced it time and time again. For this I cannot thank him enough.
Most people will never become visible in the history of the world. They may live in places far away from the news headlines or the front line of political or commercial power. The feeling of powerlessness and insignificance is probably one of the primary reasons why people choose to numb themselves rather than to awaken their thinking and find ways of living that challenge the status quo. This is why I was also so touched by Adam's exploration of the effect that an individual can have on the world through how they change themselves. Adam speaks about the moment of liberation where the human being finds the place of freedom in changing themselves and how it is exactly this first step that prepares the ground for all the work we may do either on our own projects or in our ability to accommodate and understand each other.
We are often filled with idealism at the beginning of an endeavor. Taking that idealism on through disappointment and failure is one of the greatest tests we can face. On a personal and a political level human beings need tools both for learning to work together and for finding the courage to endure and try again while learning from our mistakes. This book provides the analysis of many of our mistakes. This analysis has the potential to liberate us from constantly repeating them. Adam's description of the nature of love and power and of the role of individual self-transformation gives us tools for real communication and for finding the still point where we would be able to sense the emergence of a creative future.