I thought I had posted this story about business development here at this blog few years ago, but cannot seem to find it in the archives. So here it is (I hope for the first time). I have copied and pasted this story of mediator collaboration from a listserv message I wrote in May of 2003. Time flies, doesn't it?
In the early '80s, I observed a good lesson in collaboration versus competition. Back then, several lawyers including myself recently had been trained in mediation; we'd all received training at the same Center in Marin County. Many of the trainees were from Sonoma County, one county north of Marin, in northern California; I was from the Bay Area but was close friends with several of them so knew how this all unfolded.
The Sonoma group had a meeting and decided they had two options: they could compete with each other, or they could all together promote the concept of mediation knowing there were enough clients for everyone. They chose the latter option, collaborated on many activities such as public education talks, and when I left California a
few years later, there was more mediation happening per capita in Sonoma County than in any other county in the country.
I know they talked about several things when they made their decision. Most important, they felt they had to model amongst themselves the way they wanted their clients to be. So, if they competed, they were coming from a concept of scarcity, something they hoped would not get in the way of their clients' resolutions. They wanted to model that there is enough for everyone.
Also, they believed in the concept of mediation and their particular version of it, which involves seeing people as whole and competent even when their behavior appears inconsistent with that vision. They believed that furthering their version of mediation in a competitive way was contradictory.
Finally, they looked at the role of judgment as it affects the mediation process. They had to model what they hope for in their clients here, too. Each of them had their own style and valued that as well as the styles of the other mediators. They made a conscious decision not to judge each other.
So, were they in competition with each other? Yes, in the sense that clients would chose one or the other and not all of them. Were they competing with each other? No, I don't think so. They chose a notion of plenty for all, and furthering together a concept in which they all believed.
Some people not involved, but observing, called this a Pollyanna-ish approach to business. Maybe, but it worked for them.