First and foremost- Happy New Year! May it bring you health and happiness and quick and peaceful resolutions to all of your disputes.
On my first day back in the office, I read the Kluwer Mediation blog (January 2, 2017). The author- Geoff Sharp wrote on “Chunking Up and Down- advice for those preparing for the ICC Mediation Competition in Paris”. Each February, there is an international commercial mediation moot competition sponsored by the International Chamber of Commerce attended by more than 500 participants from around the world whose purpose is to encourage the learning and teaching of effective mediation skills. More than 150 mock mediation sessions are conducted over a six-day period.
While Mr. Sharp directs his advice to the upcoming participants, his advice is actually quite valuable for any one in a dispute. He looks at a dispute from both ends- the seemingly intractable ones in which there are too many moving parts or there are not enough of them!
With respect to the former, many times, parties are in a dispute that is seemingly quite complex or convoluted with many moving parts. They throw up their hands at the idea of trying to resolve it, as they do not know where to begin.
What Mr. Sharp suggests is to “chunk down” or break it down into smaller parts. As he explains, “Chunking down (going to smaller more detailed chunks of thoughts) is about going into detail to find smaller and more specific elements of the system.” (Id.)
The example he gives is of a forest. Rather than trying to analyze the forest as a whole, break it down into trees, and then from there, into branches and then finally to its leaves. To do this, one may ask broad questions such as; “How do you do that? Why did that happen? What happened about…? What, specifically….? Tell me more about …. and What is the root cause of all of this?” (Id.)
At the other extreme, I have seen parties get lost in the forest for the trees. They are so hung up on each leaf on the tree, that not only do they not see the branches or the tree, they do not even realize that they are in the middle of the Sequoia National Forest or Muir Woods! They think the dispute is a simple one about a particular leaf on a tree, not realizing that in actuality, the whole forest is the issue.
To get unstuck, step back, or “chunk up”. Mr. Sharp suggests that the parties “chunk up” or step away and look at the issue from 30,000 feet above the ground. As he explains, “Chunking up (going to bigger chunks broader chunks of thought) is about taking a broader view. Helicopter up to 30,000 feet. Survey the landscape to see the whole system.” (Id.)
To do this, again, ask very broad questions such as, “What does this mean? Let’s look at the bigger picture…. , How does that relate to…?, Hang on, what are we trying to achieve here? Who is this for? and What do they really want?” (Id.)
The advice is simple, and hopefully, will not be hard to implement. I suspect that the hardest part will be to remember this fine art of “chunking” in order to implement it.
So… as you start your New Year, hopefully, you will not have many disputes. (I am not so optimistic to think that no disputes at all will exist over the next 50 or so weeks!) But, when you do, think about “chunking”!
…. Just something to think about.
Copyright 2017© Phyllis G. Pollack and www.pgpmediation.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Phyllis G. Pollack and www.pgpmediation.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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