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<xTITLE>Major League Mediators: Idea Entrepreneurs</xTITLE>

Major League Mediators: Idea Entrepreneurs

by Larry Bridgesmith
December 2010 Larry Bridgesmith
“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!


Dr. Larry Bridgesmith serves as Senior Fellow, founding Executive Director and Associate Professor at the Institute for Conflict Resolution at Lipscomb University and as President of Creative Collaborations, LLC. He is of counsel to Miller & Martin, PLLC, a law firm with offices in Atlanta, Nashville and Chattanooga. In these roles, he brings over 30 years of experience in dispute resolution and innovative workplace strategies to clients, students and business entities alike. Dr. Bridgesmith integrates the practical, legal and academic "best practices" in dispute resolution strategies in service to his client relationships. He is listed annually in notable attorney rating publications such as LawDragon, SuperLawyers, Chambers USA, Americas Leading Lawyers for Business and Woodward White Inc.’s, America’s Leading Lawyers. Currently serving as president of the Tennessee Association of Mediators, he is also an invited member of the Tennessee Academy of Mediators and the International Academy of Mediators.

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