Facilitating Breakthrough Book Summary - Facilitating Breakthrough Book explained in key points
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Facilitating Breakthrough summary

Adam Kahane

How to Remove Obstacles, Bridge Differences, and Move Forward Together

4.2 (48 ratings)
15 mins

Brief summary

Facilitating Breakthrough by Adam Kahane is a guide to achieving breakthroughs in complex situations. Kahane provides a framework for working together with diverse stakeholders to create positive change. The book offers practical tools for facilitating communication, collaboration, and creative problem-solving.

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    Facilitating Breakthrough
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    Transformative facilitation

    Imagine that your favorite basketball team is having a really bad season. The players don’t get along, everyone’s frustrated, and it’s hurting their performance on the court. They have all the skills they need to win, but when it comes to communicating and overall teamwork, they’re terrible. And it’s causing them to lose games. So, to bring them together as a team, the coach brings in a facilitator – you. 

    But, what is a facilitator exactly? Well, essentially a facilitator is someone who makes working in a group easier. And in the case of your basketball team, this means you have to bring them together as a team so that they can start winning. 

    So, as the appointed facilitator, what can you do to start turning the situation around? 

    Well, you could make the players listen to what the coach says. This is known as vertical facilitation, and it’s the most common approach to problem-solving. It’s a top-down, hierarchical approach that involves addressing the group as a whole. 

    At face value, vertical facilitation makes sense. After all, the coach is important, because he‘s an expert. He has played and coached countless games throughout his career. So he knows a lot about Basketball. He has a strategy and tactics for the whole team. If nobody follows the strategy and the tactics, you won’t be successful. There will be chaos, and opposing teams will take advantage of that.

    Another approach is horizontal facilitation. This method is bottom-up; everyone's on an equal playing field. People can choose when and what to contribute. With this method, you could make the coach listen to what the players are saying. At the end of the day, they’re the ones who have to do the actual playing. They may not have as many years of experience as the coach. But they still know a lot about what it’s like to play on this particular team. You can have the best tactics in the world, but if the players are unhappy, the team won’t be successful.

    In both cases, it’s possible to start winning – a team can win purely on the individual strengths of its players, or good strategy from the coach – but only for a certain amount of time. Because the downside of only going with one strategy, however, is that one side inevitably gets ignored. And this will create a lot of frustration - nobody likes being ignored!

    So, what to do? Well, here comes the solution: you should do both! As a facilitator, you make sure the players listen to what the coach has to say. But you also make sure that the players have their own say.

    And that’s what’s called transformative facilitation. That’s a bit of a mouthful, I know, but it essentially means you talk to everybody and try to find out what the situation is like. And then you take action.

    So, if you notice that the coach has all the power, then it’s time to listen to the players a bit more. And if the players are doing what they want without paying attention to the coach - Then it’s time to give the coach a bigger role.

    As a facilitator, you do this over and over again until everybody feels heard. That involves a lot of listening and a lot of talking. It takes some time. But that’s what facilitators do: they listen to everybody, they talk to everybody. And by doing that, they make working in a team easier and more fun. And hopefully your team will start winning again.

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    What is Facilitating Breakthrough about?

    Facilitating Breakthrough (2021) dives into how people can go about solving their most intractable problems. By using an approach honed over decades, you can learn how to remove obstacles from conflicts and make progress toward resolution.

    Facilitating Breakthrough Review

    Facilitating Breakthrough (2018) by Adam Kahane is a book that explores the art and science of creating transformative change in complex situations. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its practical strategies and innovative approaches, it equips readers with the tools to navigate and overcome challenging circumstances.
    • Combining personal anecdotes, case studies, and research, the book provides a rich and diverse range of perspectives, making it engaging and thought-provoking.
    • By delving into the complexities of collaboration and conflict resolution, the book offers a fresh perspective on how change can be facilitated, making it anything but boring.

    Who should read Facilitating Breakthrough?

    • Facilitators, managers, and mediators 
    • Anyone looking for new ways to resolve intractable situations
    • People interested in the art of problem-solving

    About the Author

    Adam Kahane co-founded Reos Partners, where he works as a Director. He has over 30 years of experience in helping businesses, government, and civil society solve seemingly unsolvable problems. He is the author of four bestselling books, including Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities.

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    Facilitating Breakthrough FAQs 

    What is the main message of Facilitating Breakthrough?

    The main message of Facilitating Breakthrough is to help groups and individuals navigate complexity and solve complex problems using breakthrough thinking.

    How long does it take to read Facilitating Breakthrough?

    The reading time for Facilitating Breakthrough varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Facilitating Breakthrough a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Facilitating Breakthrough is a valuable read for anyone interested in learning how to facilitate breakthrough thinking. It offers practical strategies and insights to help teams and individuals navigate complex challenges.

    Who is the author of Facilitating Breakthrough?

    The author of Facilitating Breakthrough is Adam Kahane.

    What to read after Facilitating Breakthrough?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Facilitating Breakthrough, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • How to Tell a Story by The Moth
    • Sell Or Be Sold by Grant Cardone
    • Problem Solving 101 by Ken Watanabe
    • Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
    • Mastering Communication at Work by Ethan F. Becker and Jon Wortmann