Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Calling President Carter

I took some time off from blogging and now with the New Year upon us let me get us going again! And with the inauguration recently behind us, I was reminded of a mediator technique shared by an experienced mediator.

She explained that as an impasse breaking tool she would ask former President Jimmy Carter to come into the room and work his mediator magic. Not the real resident Carter, but the imagined one. She would actually say to participants something like – “We are somewhat stuck and I have a mediator technique where we suppose that Jimmy Carter is here with us to help mediate. What would he do at this point?”

She solicits input from participants, adds her own ideas and then tries to take action along the lines of discussion. The discussion about what former President Carter would do allows her to tap into the process knowledge of the participants (that's also linked to the substance of the dispute) in an indirect manner. This can allow greater creativity in thinking and a willingness to share ideas that might not be shared if you ask "What should we do next?" Of course, sometimes asking what next is a great technique in and of itself. Finally, using an "indirect" approach lets the participants share their ideas without feeling “directed” by those in which they are in dispute.

With a new administration in town, perhaps we should call in President Obama?