By Steven G. Mehta

What a crazy couple of weeks.  I have been coming home at midnight one day, working late other nights, and then meeting my obligations to the boards that I am on.  With that said, I saw an interesting article on creativity.  Here is a brief excerpt from the article:

Be comfortable “working in ambiguity.”
The key to true creative problem solving is the ability to work in ambiguity – to explore the full range of possibilities without jumping to conclusions. The poet John Keats praised Shakespeare for this trait, which he called “negative capability.” As Keats defines it, negative capability “is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, [and] doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” In short, we must feel comfortable moving forward without always knowing exactly where we are headed.
(For the full article, click here)

This point got me thinking about creativity in mediation and negotiations.  The fact of the matter is that mediators don’t always know where they are headed.  They have a general idea of a direction, but the specific route is not usually defined.  Mediators need to be comfortable in the ambiguity — not knowing what a move will do, not knowing when the case will resolve, if at all, not knowing what the parties will do, or a variety of other unknowns.  Mediation often seems to be an experiment in looking through all the ambiguity.  Not only of the ambiguity of the process, but the ambiguity of the statements that parties make.

Another reason for not knowing where you are headed is the bias that once you think you know where you are heading, you make corrections in your path that you might not have otherwise have made.  In other words, as a mediator, if you know a number a party is willing to pay, don’t you think you might be influenced by knowing that number?  Instead, let the parties know their destinations, and you can experience their destination by going through the journey.