Collaborative Problem Solving

An Innovative Way to Lead Discussions During Mediation

Design Thinking Explained

Design thinking is a process for problem solving rooted in a set of creative thinking skills. Design thinking can be applied to any problem that needs a creative solution. Bernie Roth and other renowned teachers at Stanford University have demonstrated that once you understand the skills central to the design thinking approach, they can be applied to solve problems not only in engineering but in daily life. We have taken this approach further and utilize these principals of design thinking in our model for dispute resolution as it allows the family members to stop blaming and start designing a future that will work for everyone involved.

As Rebecca Link brilliantly said , "the first step in design thinking is to understand the problem you are trying to solve before searching for solutions". The mistake made by many is to try and empathize, connecting the stated problem only to their own experiences. This falsely leads to the belief that you completely understand the situation. The reason why a mediator should never project himself in a case is quite simple: what about if you never encounter in your personal life the problem(s) the parties are dealing with ? Will you be unable to relate and therefore unable to help!

The second phase of design thinking is developing solutions to the problem by brainstorming as a group. Holding nothing back during brainstorming and suspending judgment is key to succeed.

When we're exploring the solution space, we first broaden the search and generate lots of possibilities, including the wild and crazy ideas.

Once the parties involved have defined the problem, they will worked as a team to boil those ideas down to the ones they think may actually solve the problem.

How do we work with The parties?

In our model, we work with the parties to identify their interests and needs.

We collaborate with them to fully develop not only their expressed position but also their underlying concerns.

When we brainstorm the possible options for resolution, we encourage the parties to be as as free in their thinking as possible. It is not necessary that each alternative be logical or even possible, it is just important that the parties begin to "think outside the conflict" in order to discover where commonality in their positions may lie.

Once we have exhausted all of the options reasonably imaginable, we then scrutinize each of them for its reasonableness and compare it to the stated mission statement.

From this discussion many times possibilities begin to come into focus that lead to meaningful offers of settlement.After some negotiation and refinement of those settlement offers, a settlement agreement can be reached which will serve the interests of all parties involved.

We also believe that it is important for the parties to have time to reflect on their position. We consider that reflection is one of the most powerful and effective tool for developing a person's clarity. It is a structural way of processing experiences.

We sometimes ask the parties to take 5 - 15 minutes to pause and let their minds harvest the insights they have gained in the mediation which can be used to develop possibilities for resolution. There is a real value if there is a sense of everyone working together to develop a holistic solution.

Handling Emotions differently

We are students of neuroscience, and the latest brain studies. We incorporate this knowledge into our mediation process which makes our process different from other forms of mediation. Most mediation organizations rely on the techniques used during settlement conferences in court .i.e. they point out the weakness of each party's position and then encourage each party to settle. We worked to involve the parties in the process to find a mediated resolution of the controversy. Why do we do that and how does it work in a mediation? Our brain is visual. Studies have shown that the majority of the neurons of our brain focused on perception are dedicated to sight. We learn and communicate through sight.

However most mediations are conducted without the use of any visual tools at all. We use whiteboards as well as other visual techniques in our mediation to engage the parties in the process and to give greater meaning to their input. Studies have shown that once an issue is written down your brain no longer needs to retain the thought. That frees up the working memory to think about other things.

When we read, we read from left to right or right to left depending on the language. This is a very linear method. In a drawing on a whiteboard text can be expressed in different areas on the board which allows the eyes to move around the board. This encourages different directions for thinking.

When people are encouraged to think visually, thoughts can be organized on the whiteboard. It is a method to change difficult problems into shapes, words, and symbols that the brain can perceive in a different modality.

Because of the huge brain capacity that backs up visual thinking the process seems effortless. This makes working on complicated and difficult issues easier.