The Mediation Times


…more on curiosity and “deep thinking”

by Amanda on June 21, 2008

I would like to point you to a recent article published on the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge site on a book by by Gerald and Lindsay Zaltman about the value of deep thinkers in organisations titled “Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers“. It chimes well with the recent blog post I wrote on curiosity.

According to the Zaltmans, “while nearly all research techniques commonly used today probe humans only at their conscious level, the subconscious (offering deep insights) really determines behavior, and that explains why humans don’t behave as they say they will, whether in buying or other behaviors.”

What I particularly like about the article (apart from the fact that it supports some “deep thinking” theory and practice that I have been sharing for a long time) are the following observations which seem to me to be very much what goes on for parties and their advisers during mediations.

  1. reluctance to take risk, especially when short-term performance is at stake,
  2. the fear of disruption resulting from “thinking differently and deeply,”
  3. the potential psychological cost of changing one’s mind resulting from deep thinking, and
  4. the lack of information providing deep insights on which to base deep thinking.”

These points as very relevant to the parties in mediation and how mediation can really contribute to the development of their business and identify opportunities. If mediators don’t explore the subconscious issues with the parties it means, I think, that we are almost certainly ’leaving value on the table’ and it is value that the parties could have created from their own knowledge and could have improved their experience of mediation. In the article the Zaltmans propose that there are just “seven deep metaphors

  • balance (equilibrium),
  • transformation (changing states or status),
  • journey (as in life),
  • container (keeping things in and keeping things out),
  • connection (feelings of belonging or exclusion),
  • resource (providing survival), and
  • control.”

and that these metaphors…“describe 70 percent of our inner feelings. The objective is to find deep metaphors that individuals share in common (a true market segment or a basis for resolving a confIict) rather than differences. If we would just take the time to explore them we would be able to realize such things as more substantial, farsighted, successful new product introductions (such as the hybrid auto ten years ago at Toyota); more successful conflict resolution; and more significant innovation…”

The list of metaphors may provide other mediators with a very useful checklist. I have added some further notes for consideration.

  • balance – what are the parties beliefs about justice, fairness and reciprocity? This will be very relevant to the negotiation about the numbers later on and if no money is involved it will be even more relevant to changing perceptions about satisfaction and trust.
  • transformation – where is the information that might help the parties transform their view of the dispute? What assumptions are being made? How influential do the parties feel?
  • journey – how do the past, present and future interrelate for the parties? This has relevance for maintaining optimism and hope that a settlement can be reached. It is important in relation to how much time you spend on the circumstances that prompted the dispute in the first place. It also has very real importance in cross-cultural disputes where different cultures have different time orientations.
  • container – what are the boundaries experienced by the parties? Are feelings of inclusion and/or inclusion important and what do they believe is possible (in) and what is not (out)? This might simply relate to what they have been told are matters that can be included in any litigation.
  • connection – What are the feelings around relationships, self-esteem, pride, capability etc? And do the parties really understand their own needs?
  • resource – what are the beliefs about available resources – their own and those available to the other side? This might include the ability of the other party to pay. It may be what happens if they don’t get the amount that they are looking or/have to pay the amount the other side is looking for. Resource is also very relevant to deciding what the zone of possible agreement might be because that will define the negotiation strategy and therefore the outcome.
  • control – what are the feelings around being in charge, decision making, vulnerabilities and fears?

My apologies to the Zaltmans if I have reframed their categories to something that is beyond their intentions! I hope they might put it down to “deep thinking”!

More on how this played out in a recent mediation is another post.
metaphoria.jpghere is the link for the book on


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