Major League Mediators: Idea Entrepreneurs

“A consultant solves problems, that is not my role. What I want is for companies to self-diagnose their problems and self-discover their own solutions through my thought leadership.”  Vijay Govindarajan

Dr. Govindarajan, co-author of The Other Side of Innovation, is one of a new breed of mediators on steroids.  Of course, he would never consider himself a mediator, nor would most of the mediators I know.  The vast majority of mediators think of themselves as the masters of an extremely small slice of innovation found in the litigated space.  “We settle cases,” they are heard to say.  Likewise, most people in need of the skills of a mediator would never allow themselves to be helped by a mediator.  “That’s something for people who have failed,” they protest.  Each group has fallen victim to categorical thinking (leaving the problem in the box they created and failing to “think outside the box”)

As yesterday’s New York Times article illustrated, In Pursuit of the Perfect Brainstorm is the skill set management, business and thought leaders will pay enormous sums of money to learn.  I know of no mediator who would consider him or herself worth $200,000 to $500,000 per month to do the thinking for a business in need of innovation.  That’s what major corporations are willing to pay “thought entrepreneurs”.  No mediator I am aware of would charge $200,000 for a day of training 25 employees in the art and skill of brainstorming problem solutions.  These sums are regularly being charged and paid to professionals like Dr. Govindarajan and groups like Jump Associates to help businesses break through categorical (“inside the box”) thinking.

Ironically, most mediators create their own box of small minded thinking to define the work they do while culture, society and businesses are craving professional assistance which challenges entrenched thinking, engenders creativity and empowers innovation.  While “we can’t know what we don’t know”, the work of mediators is to help people think about thinking.

The skills of mediators, if well developed, are precisely what idea entrepreneurs provide.  A great mediator is a master in promoting self-determination which allows people stuck in their unhelpful thinking to take out, examine and improve their way of thinking about a problem, then change it for the better.  Mediators hone the skills of reality testing in order to allow their clients to re-examine the confirmatory bias which has trapped them in unhelpful thought until a breakthrough is achieved.  Great mediators are masters of the question.  Similarly, the New York Times article states, “You often hear this from idea entrepreneurs: Don’t ask us for the answers. Let us help you frame the questions, so you can answer them yourself.”

Mediators arise!  Shake off your limited view of the work we do.  Meet the public’s need where it is most pronounced.  Leave the shackles of the litigated case to those who desire to stay there.  Jump into the pool of thought innovation.  Help change the processes of idea generation.  Assist organizations caught in the boxes of their own creation.

Have fun!  Pay the bills!  Change the world!


5 Responses to Major League Mediators: Idea Entrepreneurs

  1. Eugene Regen says:

    Apropos a recent conversation, the timing of your ‘post’ is interesting, giving a much expanded definition and understanding of the heretofore restrictive and constrictive concepts of mediation. It may, quite possibly, have some immediate applicability for me.
    I will enjoy sharing the post with a good friend, a retired attorney, who is a mediator with the New Jersey court system. Thank you.

  2. This is excellent Larry! I know a lot of disciplines are taking a fresh look at their “deficit based” models — that is, interventions that focus on “what’s wrong” in contrast to saying “what can we create that is right?”

    That’s a big shift! I hear conversations about this is in the medical sector. (An entire industry that’s based on “eliminating disease” that is now asking, “what would it look like if we instead began to focus on “creating health?”)

    I hear it in psychology too; that’s very much a deficit-based model that is now giving rise to “positive psychology” and other branches focused on creating desired results.

    And of course, I see it in management in disciplines like appreciative inquiry.

    It never occurred to me to think of mediation in this way; my guess is that most people perceive it as a discipline that is focused on problem elimination. You’ve offered a challenging reframe!

  3. lcmlarry says:

    David, your observation about a cultural shift toward positive ideation is fascinating and “spot on”. The multi-disciplinary movement toward creation of positive space is one of the most exciting cultural phenomenon I have been privileged to observe. Let’s just jump on board! Larry

  4. Harold Vann says:

    David Hutchens comment on health caught my eye. In trying to imagine a better health care system I begin by looking at all the ways we have of improving our health by ourselves. 1- What and how much we eat? 2- How much and when do we sleep? 3- Do we enjoy what we do with our time awake? 4- What do we do to relax? 5 – How much do we do with our muscles rather than use machinery?
    6- What are our core beliefs? 7 – How much do we quinch the Spirit?
    Retired Pediatrician

  5. I had a conversation with a young adult the other evening. She was struggling with a decision that was causing conflict in her family. She did not want to go on the family vacation, and instead wanted to stay in town to be with her boyfriend. She was easily able to tell me what she did not want… she did not want her brother to be mad at her; she did not want her little sister to be sad; she did not want her mom to make her feel guilty.

    I stopped her speedy speech – that 22 year old way of speaking really really fast and running all of your sentences together – and asked her to take a deep breath and focus inward on what she did want. There was a long pause.

    And the tears came as she beautifully articulated her heart’s desires. In my experience, whether in business or at home, when we place our focus on what we DO want, we turn our attention to our hearts… where compassion and grace live alongside all of our feelings.

    Interestingly, once she spoke to her family from this place, everyone got in touch with how much they care for and value each other. She stayed home. Her siblings were sad and disappointed AND fully connected and supportive of their sister’s decision.

    A paradigm shift can happen one person at a time!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: