Albert Einstein famously said, “You can’t solve problems using the same thinking we used when we created them” and” If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”.
How often do you hear of people claiming to think outside the box and how often is this phrase misused? Business people often use it as a meaningless catchphrase. Some see it as a device for justifying their views or ideas, however unremarkable or original those may be.
One particular example of thinking outside the box came from the Michelin brothers who created their guide in the early part of the 20th century. Their motivation was not to create and sell a guide promoting good food. Rather, they found themselves having to deal with a limited market for their tyres and devised their guide as a means to get people to travel significant distances to eat and in a sense to “burn rubber” so that they would need to buy more tyres.
Consider a not untypical family dispute. Mr. A and Miss B are in the process of splitting up. They are of limited financial means and each wants to secure the best possible financial outcome that they can. In the course of negotiations, they reach an impasse, partly because of conflicting aspirations but partly and very significantly, because in reality there is insufficient money for the majority of their aspirations.
In the context of court proceedings, if faced with such a situation, a judge who cannot compel A and B to go to mediation, would most probably apply the strict letter of the law and conduct an expensive arithmetical exercise. Although the outcome i.e. the court order would in all probability be legally correct, it is distinctly possible that it would amount to little more than an unsatisfactory compromise that could fuel discord and rancour for years to come, particularly if children are involved.
Costs and time advantages aside, how could a mediator do things differently? Mediation is a flexible process. It works within the framework of UK law but is not necessarily constrained by it. Both A and B on the one hand and the mediator can speak openly. Possibly inspired subliminally by both Einstein and the Michelin brothers, a family mediator could creatively suggest to A and B that they closely examine their financial options and if necessary, take advice from a financial expert. A and B might want to look at their respective child care obligations and be more flexible about them so that one or both of them can maximise their earning potential. They might in the course of looking through the financial schedules that their mediator has prepared see options for cutting down and saving money, looking at ways of maximising any investment income and starting to plan for their respective futures.
Also, during mediation A and B will be communicating with one another in a framework over which they ultimately have control. Because they are working through the process together instead of communicating through the rather artificial medium of legal correspondence, they are much more likely to understand one another’s points of view. They are more likely to respond positively to suggestions from the mediator or indeed from one another that they might not otherwise take on board. The fact that by mediating A and B are quite probably reducing their legal bill by 80% plus will doubtless inspire them still further.
Although we at ASM PLUS are not scientists or tyre manufacturers we are very business-like in our dealings. We are inspired by Einstein’s words and guided by them in all our work. We adopt a positive and creative approach to the possible solutions that in all probability not be considered, either prior to mediation or in the course of legal proceedings.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.