Featured Topic Area: Scale, Complexity, & Intractability
An essential precondition for success, a realistic assessment of the difficulty of the challenges that have to be addressed.
Part of our inability to successfully address intractable conflicts is that we try to treat them as if they were like other more "normal" conflicts. But our "business-as-usual" conflict resolution and management strategies don't work. Often such approaches actually make things worse. Here we explains why--and start discussing what can be done instead. Posts in this unit include:
Conflict Frontiers Videos
- Business-as-Usual Introduction -- Business-as-usual strategies don't work for intractable conflicts--they often make them worse! -- March 11, 2018
- Part 1: Same Old Approach, Just More or Better -- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Why do we do that with conflict? -- March 12, 2018
- Part 2: "Boys Will Be Boys" -- Are confliict and war inevitable? Is "compromise" bad? Common attitudes turn us into cynics and block learning. -- March 13, 2018
- Part 3: The "Blame Game" -- In conflict, we often blame the other. But then that person or group gets defensive, and the conflict often escalates. -- March 14, 2018
- Part 4: Power and the Power Strategy Mix -- What is power? The ability to get things done? The ability to push other people around? Which is right? (Actually, they both are.) -- March 15, 2018
- Part 5: The Interplay of Reason and Emotion -- Can you be "rational" about conflict? -- March 16, 2018
- Part 6: More Bad Assumptions -- If they'd just talk, they could work it out! Exploring this and other bad assumptions. -- March 18, 2018
- Part 7: The Return of I'll Fight-you-for-it Rules -- Are efforts to solve problems collaboratively now losing to naked contests of Machiavellian power? -- March 19, 2018
- Part 8: The Backlash Effect and Coefficient -- If your backlash coefficient is more than one, your cause cannot be won! Learn why! -- March 20, 2018
- Part 9: Recent Peace and Conflict Paradigms -- Peace cultivation and massively parallel peacebuilding: two ideas for a new complexity-oriented conflict paradigm. -- March 21, 2018
- Win/lose and competitive/cooperative framing -- The Fundamentals Seminar examines competitive versus cooperative frames--two other process frames that can get us into trouble.
- Power -- Power, also, is more complex than it seems. This explains the difference between power sources, power strategies and when to use what.
- Rational and nonrational decision-making -- This Fundamentals post continues the examination of emotions' role in conflict decision making.
- Compromise -- A solution to a mutual problem that meets some, but not all, of each of the parties' interests. While compromise is good for repairing damaged relationships, it can also leave both parties unsatisfied, prolonging conflict.
- Summary of Difficult Conversatios: How to Discuss What Matters Most - Key ideas include "contribution" instead of blame, dealing with feelings and emotions, and identity issues.
- Revenge and the Backlash Effect -- Most people hate to be forced to do things against their will. Using threats often produces such a large backlash that they cause more problems than they solve, as this essay explains.
- Coercive Power -- Huey Newton wrote, "Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed." Though not all politics is coercive, it is certainly one way to force people to do what you want. This essay discusses the pros and cons of coercive power--violent, nonviolent, political, military, and more.
- The Scale-Up Problem -- Much conflict resolution takes place around the table or in small-group processes. Yet, intractable conflicts often involve whole communities or even societies. So methods must be found to widen or "scale up" the small group processes to the larger society.
- Minimize the Use of Force -- Exchange and respect are more powerful than force--they persuade without causing backlash.
- Focus on Fixing the Problem, Not Attacking People -- Attacking people makes them angry. Enlisting their help to solve a mutual problem is more likely to work as hoped.
Seminar videos (listed above) contain additional "BI in Context" references.
- Little Compromise on Compromising - For those who favor compromise and moderation, Pew Research opinion data on opposition to compromise!
- The Rise and Fall of Soft Power -- An update on the role that "soft power" is and is not playing in the contemporary world.
- Power Causes Brain Damage -- Evidence that having too much power can actually damage the way in which we think.
- Why Can't America Take Out Assad? -- Why America can't just take out Assad--an explanation of why Syria is such an intractable problem.
- Gun Violence: An Intractable Problem -- Gun violence reflects a complex and intractable series of problems that simple gun control can’t fix.
- There's a poisonous dynamic among white people’ over who’s to blame for racism The poisonous relationship between the elite & non-elite whites, how it's making things worse, and what can be done
- How to Get Power -- From TED, an article about "How to Get Power" through persuasion and storytelling.
- Collage: Guy Burgess