John Folk-Williams, Sacramento CA firstname.lastname@example.org 05/14/09
Thanks, Bob, for this very helpful critique of thinking in the field. The intellectual basis for mediation, as based on the interests/joint gains models, came out of a rich mix of cross discipline thinking in the 60s and 70s. Though there is considerable social science research going on today, a lot of that is evaluating and testing assumptions of practice of a type that has been fairly constant, as you say, over the past 25 years. Still, that research is questioning long-held assumptions, and it is clearly time to inject new concepts into the practice.
I think the field has been changing in recent years, at least in the public policy field, but in reaction to the demands of clients rather than new ideas from other disciplines. In this corner of the field, the fact is that these changes and adaptations have taken many away from mediation per se into other types of group processes where consensus is not necessarily the goal.
In the last two years I've had a blog in the mental health field and have spent a lot of time exploring the explanations of neuroscience about anger, mania, creativity, among other subjects, and see many connections with the human interactions in mediation and collaborative processes. I also see the sorts of unjustified leaps from specific experimental data to sweeping conclusions about everyday behavior - a strong caution is needed to separate the science from the metaphors used to reach these speculative conclusions. I'm trying to explore these themes in relation to collaboration on a new blog, and I'm hoping more in the field will take the time to start rethinking established methods and assumptions.
robert benjamin, Portland OR email@example.com 04/13/09
Importance of Systems Theory
Mr. Irvine has picked up on an important point with which I agree completely---the importance of a systemic thinking frame
Next to neuroscience and evolutionary biology and psychology, systems theory and application is critical for competent conflict management work. While sometimes given faint lip service, the relevance of systems theory is too often minimized or overlooked entirely. It would appear that many in the field seem intent on forcing practice and pedagogy into outmoded linear frames.
Practice continues to be piece-mealed into specialties---divorce, workplace, health care, policy---as if negotiation and mediation strategies, techniques and skills differ dramatically or are re-invented for each context. Courses are taught, and professional associations are organized around specific contexts of practice or sections. We can't seem to abandon the traditional notion of professional as substantive expert.
Even within those practice contexts, a systems thinking frame is all too often abandoned, preferring to limit the focus to the particular presenting parties without taking into account the surrounding conflict terrain. Some of the time, one can get by with that limited view; for difficult, complex matters, however, the self imposed constraints of the linear mind set thwarts creative problem solving.
I have addressed the importance of systemic thinking in an upcoming article titled, "The Irrational Mediator," soon to be posted.
Nan Waller Burnett, Golden CO Nandrp@aol.com 04/12/09
Once again, a great article by Robert Benjamin! The Master Mediator Institute, another brain child of Robert Creo, was an amazing opportunity for all who attended. The intersection of science and practice is the next frontier of discovery for those thirsty for academic innovation in the field. I recommend "Predictably Irrational" by Daniel Arielly as a primer for introduction into this new interdiscipline.
Nan Waller Burnett, MA
Charlie Irvine, Glasgow firstname.lastname@example.org 04/12/09
Well done for publicising this. I couldn't agree more with the hypothesis that mediators need to understand what is going on in conflict before daring to intervene. We need more interdisciplinary initiatives like this - some of your piece reminds me of the systemic perspective, another rich source of wisdom for conflict intervenors.
Monique , Williamsburg VA info@MasterMediatorInstitute.org 04/08/09
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