Collaborating with the Enemy

How to Work with People You Don't Agree with or Like or Trust

by Adam Kahane

Number of pages: 160

Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

BBB Library: Communication

ISBN: 978-1626568228

About the Author

Adam Kahane is a Director of Reos Partners (, an international social enterprise that helps people move forward together on their most important and intractable issues.


Editorial Review

Often, to get something done that really matters to us, we need to work with people we don’t agree with or like or trust. Adam Kahane has faced this challenge many times, working on big issues like democracy, jobs, climate change, and on everyday issues in his organizations or family. He has learned that our conventional understanding of collaboration—that it requires a harmonious team that agrees on where it’s going, how it’s going to get there, and who needs to do what—is wrong. Instead, we need a new approach to collaboration that embraces discord, experimentation, and genuine cocreation—which is exactly what Kahane provides in this groundbreaking and timely book.

Book Reviews

“In Collaborating with the Enemy,Adam Kahane shows that people who don’t see eye-to-eye really can come together to solve big challenges. Whether in our businesses, our governments, our communities, or our personal lives, we can all benefit from this smart and timely book.”

“Nowadays, opposition and conflict are the new normal, yet normal responses to them seem impotent. Amid this chaos and as if delivered to us by ‘special order, ’Collaborating with the Enemy shows us how thinking and seeing differently can help us navigate this challenging landscape. Kahane abandons orthodoxy in taking on the most intransigent problems, showing us the path to effective action in a complex world.”

“Adam Kahane helps us overcome romantic and linear approaches to conflict transformation.Collaborating with the Enemyprovides a hands-on critique of the myth of the uninvolved mediator and explains the art of working with the enemy.”

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Wisdom to Share

We can’t work out how to collaborate until we understand when to collaborate. Collaboration is only one of four ways that we can approach situations we find problematic. Collaboration is not always our best option.

Whenever we are faced with a situation we find problematic, in politics or at work or at home, we have four ways that we can respond: collaborating, forcing, adapting, or exiting.

Being certain that we know the right answer doesn’t leave much room for other people’s answers and therefore makes it more difficult to work together.

Conventional collaboration works only in simple, controlled situations. In other situations we need to stretch.

If our challenge is complex and contentious, then the conventional approach to collaboration will not work and we will need to employ an unconventional one.

It is possible for people who hold contradictory positions to find ways to work together.

Stretch collaboration requires all of us to embrace both love and power. If we constrict—if we weaken our stronger pole or outsource our weaker pole—we will not be successful in collaborating in tough contexts. So we need to do the opposite: practice employing our weaker pole and thereby strengthen it. We need to stretch.

When we collaborate, we exercise love and power alternately.

In stretch collaboration, we cocreate our way forward. We cannot know our route before we set out; we cannot predict or control it; we can only discover it along the way.

The discipline required to discover a way forward creatively is to try something out, step back and look at the result, and then change it, iterating over and over.