Mediation Awareness Week is Going Global
Mediation Awareness Week in the UK and Ireland will be running from the 8th to the 14th of October. It appears that other countries are now following suit with similar initiatives underway in South Africa, Portugal, Italy and Brazil. Yay! But are we all aligned with each other and, more importantly, are our messages aligned with those that might want, need or benefit from mediation?
What Does Mainstream Adoption Mean?
You want your children to get an education? Send them to school. You want to resolve a conflict? Go to mediation - that's mainstream adoption.
How Do We Get There?
Some commentators argue that the pace of growth of the mediation market is largely dependent upon a supportive infrastructure where users, mediators, training providers, educators and government all take an active role to establish this infrastructure.
Michael Leathes one of the original founders of the IMI suggests there are 7 conditions for expanding the mediation market at the heart of which lies the professionalization of mediation. He argues that by introducing more rigour in the training, development and accreditation of mediators and introducing a strong code of ethics along with greater transparency across the board will help mediation to become a globally recognised profession.
In a paper Michael wrote a few years ago he refers to Harold Wilensky’s perspective on the professionalization of an occupation. Wilensky suggests there are 5 stages to becoming a true profession. The first being;
‘A substantial number of people doing full time an activity that has a market.’
As it stands currently mediation can attest to having a substantial number of qualified people, however only a small fraction are active and the market is fragmented. I think the answer to the big question lies at the junction between the product we all call mediation and the market itself.
How Would a Data Scientist Approach This Challenge?
If we asked a data scientist and tech entrepreneur to figure out how to get mediation into the jet stream (sounds much more dynamic than the word mainstream!) how would they approach it?
Steven Blank is a retired entrepreneur who teaches entrepreneurship at Haas Business School and Stanford University. He believes that the business and marketing functions of any start up require an equally rigorous approach to the product or service development functions.
Blank has developed a methodology called Customer Development which rejects conventional wisdom of how to take a product to market.
Testing Assumptions - Bread and Butter for Mediators, Right?
Blank's methodology is rooted in the notion of continually testing assumptions and hypotheses until you arrive at a product or service that will meet the needs of a market large enough to create a sustainable business. His methodology identifies a number of critical assumptions that must be tested if one is to avoid building a product or service that nobody wants.
Ultimately, Blank says, start-ups don’t fail because they don’t have a product, they fail because they lack customers and a market. He calls this the Fire, Ready, Aim strategy where the focus is entirely on getting the product in the right shape to go to market – the problem being of course that there may not be a market for that specific product.
Does the World Need Mediation?
That's a stupid question - of course it does! - but suspend reality for a moment and imagine mediation is a widget. What unvalidated assumptions are we making about the product we are selling?
One assumption Blank suggests must be tested is called the Product Assumption.
Mediation Product Assumptions
In the case of mediation we could argue that confidentiality, impartiality and the voluntary nature of mediation are some of the mediation product features. We assume that the benefit of impartiality is giving the parties reassurance the process will be fair. The benefits of the 'voluntary feature' means the parties are in charge of the outcome and if they choose, can walk away at any point. Confidentiality means that they can speak openly with each other and be vulnerable in the conversation to the extent they choose.
You get the idea, I'm just trying highlight the difference between features and benefits.
We assume these product features are important to the customer, and indeed they may well be. There's no doubt the benefits derived from the features are important to parties. But in our collective efforts to promote mediation to the rest of the world and get it into the jet stream, what assumptions have we made that we take for granted to be true but have yet to validate?
Why Parties Reject Mediation
There is a super piece of research that's been carried out by Professor Liz Stokoe. Liz studied with granular detail the words and phrases that engaged parties in mediation as well the words and phrases that turned people off mediation. Watch this short video clip where Liz describes what she discovered.
So we may well ask ourselves are we singing from the same hymn sheet and if we are is it the right hymn sheet - do the lyrics make sense for the audience?
Mediation might be the right product but it won't matter if we don't get the packaging right!
Let's Eat Our Own Dog Food
I think mediators, and I include myself here, should eat our own dog food (practice what we preach) and listen more to the consumer, ask different questions. We may not like the answers to some but I'm hoping the events scheduled during Mediation Awareness Week are centered around the consumer and improving our understanding of their needs so we can better meet the challenge of getting mediation into the dispute resolution jet stream.
Pilot Your Own Mediation Airship
With all this talk of widgets, dog food, bread and butter and airships where on earth do you start?
The simple answer - with a plan.
The most successful mediators that have hit their own jet stream have all started with a detailed plan, and a simple strategy to make the plan work. I've interviewed some of them and have broken down their success recipes into a step-by-step guide.
If you'd like to know how to get your own mediation practice aligned with consumers then download this FREE Mediation Marketing Guide now.