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The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts Hardcover – 26 May 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs,U.S. (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586489216
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586489212
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 757,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Morton Deutsch
"This book is an important, original contribution to understanding destructive, intractable conflicts and how to change them. It is well-writen and can be read with much profit by the general reader as well as by conflict specialists."Geoffrey Canada"As the world gets smaller and more complex, we have to improve our ability to live together peaceably - whether it is in our homes, our streets or between nations. This thoughtfully constructed examination of human conflict and how we can resolve it is a welcome antidote to the contentious times in which we live. Peter Coleman delivers hope in this guidebook to untangling our most intractable problems." "", July, 2011
"The Arty Semite" "Groundbreaking... Based on the work of an extraordinary multi-disciplinary team that includes specialists in complexity science, astrophysics, mathematics, social psychology, anthropology and conflict resolution, 'The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts' brings to the general reader, for the first time, research that could reshape our understanding of intractable conflicts... Coleman's book should be required reading for peacemakers around the world."

"Huntington News Network", August 13, 2011"In "The Five Percent," Coleman applies proven, practical lessons and analyses drawn from complexity theory to create the first systematic, integrated, evidence-based model for understanding the 5 percent, and offers a coherent set of principles and practices for resolving them. The result is an innovative new strategy for dealing with intractable disputes of all types." "Negotiator Magazine""Both practitioners and students of conflict management are certain to find THE FIVE PERCENT to be a valuable resource. The volume includes an extensive bibliography in its "Notes" section and a well-developed index. Highly recommended."

About the Author

Dr. Peter T. Coleman is associate professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, and on faculty of The Earth Institute at Columbia. In 2003, he received the Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association, Division 48: Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. He lives in New York.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A breakthrough for those struggling with complx change
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8e5be348) out of 5 stars 16 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e7a87b0) out of 5 stars A Must Read on Conflict Resolution 14 May 2011
By Alon Gratch, Ph.D. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a highly original book about confronting and resolving the kinds of conflicts which often make our lives and life on earth miserable. The author tells a compelling story about his team's research and practice in the field of conflict resolution, breaking down complex concepts into simple yet profound observations and solutions. The book is full of clever, powerful insights and moving, intellectually riveting anecdotes, ranging from The Middle East Conflict at Columbia University to Gang Violence in the South Bronx. There are many brilliant and useful concepts--attractors, complicate to simplify, conflict mapping, etc., and they are often accompanied by visual illustrations which help to digest, remember and apply the wealth of information offered. The book does not shy away from a serious look at complex problems, but delving into each theory and example is highly rewarding. By integrating theory, research and practical solutions into a fascinating, hopeful and well-written narrative, Coleman's book is a must for anyone dealing with conflict. Since it addresses the very essence of conflict and speaks to a wide audience, I highly recommend it as a form of marital therapy, a course on community mediation, or a guideline to international peace making.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e7a8750) out of 5 stars Creative, but avoids major conflicts & explanations of its research 14 Jun. 2011
By Christopher Brownfield - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book, which is saying a lot for a generally depressing and technical topic like conflict management. This book is well written, lively, and interesting. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which I admire since my own writing is also a bit iconoclastic.

The Five Percent has two shortcomings. First, it spends way too much time focusing on a "conflict" at Columbia university, where some largely Arab and Jewish students became polarized into two camps for and against some controversial professors. This case study, though interesting, is hardly worthy of such attention, especially considering that it became a surrogate for the Israel/Palestine conflict (which was only addressed in a cursory section of the afterword). The second flaw is that this book does little to explain the inner workings of the Attractor Landscape Model, which the authors cite often and glowingly. Compared to books like The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod, where the author shares his models and code, the authors of The Five Percent merely present a simple user interface and a sparse website without revealing what's behind the curtain. That doesn't cut it for me as a researcher, but an end-user of conflict management practices may find this to be more approachable and useful than I did.

Overall, I am glad that I spent the time to read this book cover to cover. If you want some ideas for how to break out of intractable conflict, then The Five Percent might be very helpful indeed.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e5b3360) out of 5 stars stimulating book 3 May 2011
By Douglas Stone - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not an easy read, and that's a good thing. The issues are complex and the thinking here is anything but pat. Every few pages, I come across something stimulating, and even brilliant. This is new and challenging, and Coleman is not afraid to take risks. One of the best books in the field I've read in years.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ea7eb58) out of 5 stars Insightful, at times a bit tedious 26 Aug. 2011
By M. L Lamendola - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book addresses conflict from a perspective I haven't seen before. Consequently, its prescribed methodology is also new to me. The perspective is the intractable conflict. Conflict resolution texts normally have you view conflicts as solvable if you apply the correct methods. But given the fact that nations go to war, we know there must be a problem with this view. The authors say the problem is that 5% of conflicts defy solution by standard methods. So they've developed a method just for those conflicts.

Whether intractable conflicts make up 5% or some other portion of the total number of conflicts is open to speculation. The authors seem to be very sure about this number, and it's probably a good reference point to understand the order of magnitude. For an individual or an organization, the percentage may be much higher or much lower.

For example, most of us have had the misfortune to know individuals who seem to be in conflict with everyone, with maybe 1% of their disagreements ever solved. They hold grudges and keep petty conflicts going for no apparent reason. There's not much we can do with those kinds of people. They aren't the focus of this book.

In this book, the authors talk about conflicts between groups. Society has plenty of groups that oppose each other, usually with great conviction and rancor.

An example they give is the anti-life people vs. the medically-assisted abortion people. Those are my labels, not the authors' labels. Notice how I don't use the label "pro life" for those who wish to mandate abortions without medical care (something that isn't very pro-life for the women forced into those methods). Nor are the "pro choice" people giving the baby a choice, so their label is also inaccurate. Value-laden labels close minds and hearts, and are typically 180 degrees out of rotation with reality.

Therein lies a major point about groups who stay in conflict. They take on seemingly noble names, wrap themselves in the cloak of some lofty principle, and proceed to entrench themselves against the wicked "them." You can have these kinds of delusions, or you can have conflict solutions. It's a choice.

How do you get past this emotion-based, heels-dug in standoff between "them and us?" As the authors point out, the traditional conflict resolution methods, which normally work very well, fall flat in such an environment.

Their approach is to modify the environment by introducing new viewpoints or other changes to it. I alluded to this in my mention of the delusions vs. solutions. The authors have a methodology for finding ways to crack the delusions and move toward solutions.

Toward this end, they have developed a tool called "Attractor Landscape Model." It sounds logical, but I had some trouble understanding it. Much of the explanation got sidetracked. As a climber myself, I didn't see the connection the authors were trying to make by using climbing as an example when illustrating a particular point. Some other examples similarly left me scratching my head.

Examples aren't their strong suit, apparently. The conflict examples they used weren't particularly interesting to me. I would have preferred examples that someone other than a politician in the State Department can relate to.

I finished the book with the impression that the case histories indicated the target readers are those people who are involved in Israeli-based conflicts in universities and the Middle East. But the book's cover gave no indication of that. I thought the target reader would be people who need to resolve intractable conflicts in the workplace, in the non-profit organizations they serve as volunteers, in their neighborhoods, and in their families.

The book focused disproportionately on a specific genre of conflict. Sure, go ahead and use the Middle East as a smaller example, but also give us examples that might have something in common with our own challenges in conflict resolution.

The authors also spent, in my opinion, far too much time dwelling on a particular conflict at Columbia University. After reading about it again and again, I just skimmed past it when it came up in the text.

But even with this flaw, the book is insightful and helpful. The astute reader can still apply the Attractor Landscape Model and still glean the principles from the examples given. So if you are having problems getting opposing sides to kiss and make up, this book could be a game-changing resource for you.

The authors have prepared a Website with software they've dubbed the Attractor Software. I took a look at it and noticed they have a "Toturial" (misspelled twice, so at least it's consistent). I didn't download or run anything, but it looks like you can run their program in Flash rather than install something on your machine.

The Notes section in the book is impressive. The authors did extensive research, tapping a huge number of primary sources. Many authors will tap a few secondary sources and rely mostly on tertiary sources, maybe tossing in a primary source or two. The degree of rigor in this book is exemplary.

This book's text runs 224 pages, divided into six chapters.

Appendix A describes the Attractor Software.

Appendix B is titled Analytical Contents. There's probably a name for this feature in a book, but I haven't seen it before and don't know what it's called. I do like it, though! It strikes me as a cross between an outline and a table of contents. You can track down an idea hierarchically, rather than trying to recall specifically the name of something as you must with an index.

After Appendix B is a short piece that has the bios of the principals at Columbia University's International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ea1f0cc) out of 5 stars Not like other peace-making books 13 Jun. 2011
By Tom - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book makes sense. Considering the complexity of the approach it describes, it is surprisingly easy to read. All the more surprising is that the author is a college professor, not a mass market writer. What makes the 5 percent so important? Even though this is a small percentage of conflicts, almost all of us are affected by them, pay for them, get depressed by them. The book argues for close, intense observation of a difficult conflict - which will not appeal to readers who insist on "getting the point" right now. The conflicts used in examples all appear at first to be straightforward and I always want the disputants just to use their heads and stop being so pigheaded. This author keeps you with him, though, showing you ways to investigate further, understand the dynamics, look for ways to shift things advantageously. I would wish for less reliance on questionable metaphors (landscapes and mountain climbing)while maintaining an accessible account of this important subject.
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