Among the tools that mediators bring to the negotiating table the most powerful may be reframing. In the words of Bernie Mayer, “The art of reframing is to maintain the conflict in all its richness but to help people look at it in a more open-minded and hopeful way.”
Reframing is also what gives successful entrepreneurs and business leaders the ability to see possibilities where others see problems. This model for problem solving is known as Appreciative Intelligence (AI), according to the two organizational design experts, Tojo Thatchenkery and Carol Metzker who describe and analyze its qualities and characteristics, along with methods for cultivating it, in a new book, Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Mighty Oak in the Acorn.
As this article from Ode Magazine explains,
Appreciative intelligence can be defined as the capability of perceiving the inherent generative potential within a situation at hand. Put simply, appreciative intelligence is the ability to see the mighty oak in the acorn. It is the capacity to see a strong trunk and countless leaves emerging from this small nut as time unfolds. It is a knack for seeing a breakthrough product, top talent or valuable solution for the future hidden in the present.
This should all sound very familiar to mediators.
Appreciative Intelligence grew out of Appreciative Inquiry, a method for engaging organizations and groups in developing and implementing positive change and achieving potential.
For more information on Appreciative Inquiry, you can visit the Appreciative Inquiry Commons web site.
(With thanks to Stephanie West Allen for introducing me to AI and for sharing many of these links. Stephanie is currently working on an interview with Carol Metzker for her blog, Idealawg, to be published soon.)