In this lesson, we’ll discuss the point in the conflict resolution process during which the parties generate options.
In particular, we’ll focus on:
As you know, one of the main goals of conflict resolution is to help parties work together to come up with the best possible solution to their conflict.
These parties have probably come in with opposing positions, or what they thought they needed in order to reach a resolution.
But through discussion, we’ve uncovered their underlying interests and needs, which are the reasons why the parties have taken their particular positions.
Once we have listed all of the parties’ needs, we put together a problem statement that sounds something like, “How can we meet Party A's needs, Party B's needs, and the listed shared needs of both parties at the same time?”
This question invites an answer; it invites us to look for all the possible ways we can meet these needs. We can do this through brainstorming, or a process of generating ideas as quickly and in as large a number as possible.
We're going to brainstorm as many ideas as we can for each one of the listed needs in order to generate a lot of possible options for a solution, and then write them down. The solution can end up being a combination of these options, which is why it’s important to list them all.
The key to the brainstorming process is that we’re not evaluating any of these ideas. Even if there’s an idea that seems unworkable or sort of silly, it might be an idea that ultimately makes you think of something that would work.
Or you could look at it and think that while it sounds silly as it stands, there might be something you could do to modify it and make it work.
There was actually a situation in which a community was looking at ways to get youth off the streets at night because they were causing trouble. Somebody jokingly threw out an idea, saying, “Maybe we should expand our daycare center, and get some babysitters for these teenagers.” Everybody laughed, but they put the idea down.
About 10 minutes later somebody said, “In regards to that daycare idea, obviously we're not going to put teenagers in daycare, but what about some kind of after-school program? What about some weekend programs? Maybe we could ask the kids what they might be interested in. Could we put together some after-school and weekend programs?”
People thought about it and said, “Maybe we should explore that; we should bring the kids in, and ask them what they'd like.” This led to a whole new process of generating an idea which ultimately worked, but it occurred to somebody because of that silly idea about babysitters and daycare.
During the brainstorming portion of the process, you want to suspend judgment and refrain from throwing anything off the table.
Suspending judgement is also important to maintaining collaboration, as the parties need to be working jointly to solve the problem.
If one party shares an idea, and the other party puts that idea down, this could prevent the process from moving forward.
The goal at this stage is to put positive attention on generating ideas. We’ll continue to generate options for all of the listed needs, coming up with as many possible options as we can think of through the brainstorming process.
The generating options period of the conflict resolution process is the time when the parties come together and jointly list all the options they can think of to meet their mutual needs. It’s crucial to suspend judgement, or refrain from evaluating the options at this point, because you want to place a positive focus on generating ideas.
It’s important to remember to reassure the parties that you will be evaluating these ideas in the next stage of this process. Once you get out as many ideas as possible, you will go back and look at those ideas in order to evaluate them.
As you will learn in a later lesson, the evaluative phase will also involve putting these options together into one comprehensive solution. However, this can only be done once you have all the options listed.
In this lesson, you learned that once the parties in a conflict have listed their needs and crafted a problem statement, they can begin generating options for a solution. This process involves brainstorming in order to come up with as many ideas as quickly as possible.
You now understand that when brainstorming, it’s important to suspend judgement. The time to evaluate the ideas will come later; right now what matters is placing a positive focus on generating options because you never know which ideas might end up inspiring a solution.
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.
A process of generating ideas or solutions as rapidly and in as great a number as possible, without evaluating them.
Refraining from evaluation of an idea, situation or person.