ODR Blog: ODR, by any other name… Join the hunt?

Enjoy this guest post by Noam Ebner, Chair of the Online Masters Program in Negotiation & Dispute Resolution at the Werner Institute, School of Law, Creighton University (disclaimer: of which I am a graduate).

Below his article, you can read my comments- Enjoy!

(Originally post at ADRhub HERE)

Out there in cyberspace, Online Dispute Resolution is being developed and practiced by people who have never attended Cyberweek, participated in the International Forum on ODR, or even heard of the term ODR. Their development of the tools and practices of ODR is at least as important as the development work being conducted by the dispute resolution world. ODRBlog is going to hunt these platforms and practitioners down and introduce them to the ODR community.

Preparing for, and participating in, Cyberweek this past October (and recuperating from it reflectively afterwards), I was struck by how ODR is constantly expanding. This seems to be a seasonal thing, as I get this feeling every Cyberweek. New people are always involved, new platforms and new thinking.

However, those of us who experienced the slow and furious pace of ADR growth know that there is a huge difference between a field’s expansion, a field’s acceptance, and a field’s mainstreaming.

To a large extent, the only one of these three that ODR professionals and academics can directly affect in a powerful manner is the field’s expansion: We can build better platforms (well, not me, but you get my meaning), design better processes, think of new areas for implementation, and more.

To a lesser degree, we can affect the field’s acceptance by the public. We can do this by means of advertisement, lobbying, academic publishing and public relations, or through one-by-one proselytizing (anybody involved in ODR, much like anyone involved in ADR, has done their share of that. We should set up a blog site dedicated to those stories!). However, the larger part of this effort is not something that can be affected from inside the ODR field. Widespread acceptance of ODR, to say nothing of the mainstreaming of ODR into the way people, governments and business conduct their interactions, will require patience, and will depend on external support - the knowing or unknowing contributions of entities unconnected to the dispute resolution field or the ODR movement.

Patience, because time is working in ODR’s favor. The world is moving online, where ODR is waiting for it. People will increasingly use ODR offered by ODR professionals, as the components of ODR become commonplace practices in non-ODR contexts.

I think this is obvious, and perhaps familiar to all of us from our own experiences. Some examples might be:

  • People comfortable with online shopping don’t suffer endless worries that the internet is not a safe place to transact through.

  • People comfortable with online dating have experienced complex and meaningful interactions in which they needed to make decisions regarding trust, risk, uncertainty, information-sharing and relationship.

  • People experienced with online learning are used to spending a lot of their time engaging in different types of interactions (academic, social, administrative, etc.) with others in a virtual space.

People who have engaged in one (or all!) of these, will probably find the idea of settling disputes online neither silly nor daunting, and perhaps not even revolutionary at all! Indeed - these have all become pretty widespread phenomena, and I think that ODR has benefitted from them. When I introduce the concept of ODR to people nowadays, I hear fewer responses questioning my sanity and good judgment than I did a few years ago. What might be the next step along the user-familiarity road?

This is where the ‘external support’ I mentioned above comes into play. I think that if ODR-like processes become commonly offered, or embedded, in different industry settings, by non-ODR –labeled professionals, companies and government entities, ODR acceptance and mainstreaming will be greatly advanced.

This is why I’m always on the lookout for instances of ODR type processes, services, or platforms being developed in industry or governmental contexts, by people who may have never even heard of ODR. Early-on examples of this might be an e-HRM outsourcing firm considering offering its clients to handle their salary negotiations through a negotiation support system they’ve developed (one such project I know about never got off the ground, so I can’t provide you with a link). Another might be a sourcing company offering its clients use of a platform through which they can not only locate multiple suppliers, but also make contact and negotiate with them.

My guess? There is a lot more ODR going on out there than we know of. The Internet, remarked Noam knowingly, is a big place. As Homer S. once said, they even have it on computers nowadays. It’s amazing how much is going on out there, and there is no way to keep track of it - even when you spend something like 16 hours a day online (although when my wife asks me, I insist it couldn’t possibly be more than 2-3, tops). Given that I’m interested in learning about things going on outside of the dispute resolution field’s semi-defined reservation, staying on top of things is a double challenge.

Which is where we can get the whole interactive part of the Internet going: I’m asking for your help, in identifying new instances of non-ODR ODR. I’m guessing that some of these processes and platforms will be labeled with such names and terms as CRM, customer relations, multi-vendor purchasing, and a whole slew of specific industry jargon. When we reveal the core service or process involved, however, they will be easily recognizable by anybody familiar with ODR. The challenge is identifying them while they still bear their original labels. Please chime in below or write me (NoamEbner@Crieghton.edu), suggesting sites, platforms or services you know about, that fit the following criteria:

  • They are geared towards facilitating situations in which there is a conflict or a negotiation

  • They are industry/relationship specific, aiming to facilitate certain types of processes within a certain relationship (e.g., negotiation between car buyer and car seller, citizen complaints against a municipal office, etc.).

  • They allow for some degree of communication, and submission of offers and responses

  • They use none, or next to none, of ADR and ODR’s professional lingo (in other words: if a site uses the terms ‘online dispute resolution’ or ‘mediation’, or refers to a familiar ODR vendor, or anything showing it was developed by dispute resolution professionals or by people in touch with ODR ‘insiders’, it is out of the range of sites I’m looking for).

Help me out? Send me sites which you think fit (more or less) these criteria, and I will chase them down and intro them to the ADR and ODR community (with credit given, where desired!). Thanks!

(My reply) The first non-ODR ODR that comes to my mind is how companies embrace and use Twitter. yes, that is not profound in itself yet what I refer to in this sense is that some use it as an extension of their customer service- people report issues or problems via the company's Twitter name and they assist them... All through Twitter!

I think it is a brilliant example of embracing technology and perhaps non-ODR ODR?

I also want to mention another point you bring up- that non ADR professionals are using ODR. Something I mention often, and quoting Bernie Mayer's book Beyond Neutrality, is just that and some- we must not only go beyond on neutral roles (think 'mediator') but also beyond standard applications and uses of the services we provide.

ODR I think is a perfect example of this. I wrote a paper (I think 3 people read it! But its in the "papers" section of ADRhub) on how technology could be used and embraced through new ventures as well as how brick-and-mortar organizations can implement it as well. My example is university ombuds offices and embracing the web and video technology such as Skype or ooVoo, to serve clients.

There are so people and organizations already out there doing implementing ODR methods and I applaud them.

We as a profession, and not just the sub section of ODR fanatics like the both of us, can really help others by investing time in discussions and brainstorming on how to move forward (yes, yes forward beyond talk!) by embracing embracing ideas and initiatives such as your request.

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Podcast #15- Nebraska Mediation Association

Episode #15

Nebraska Mediation Association

Join host Jeff Thompson and Nebraska Mediation Association's current President, Bryan Hanson (also Werner Institute Assistant Director), as they discuss the NME.

Topics include using new technology to engage and train its members, continuing mediation education and how to be an effective organization serviing mediators.

Find more music like this on ADRhub Werner Institute

Subscribe to the new series by click the image below:

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Mediators: What If They Don't Pay?

I have been using Twitter to find some great blog postings and articles. This is how I found today's guest blogger, Kelly S. (who needs to know her last name anyway?), aka @KolorKube.

I know we all mediate and do conflict coaching because we love the work we do yet at the sametime accumulating smiles does not pay the bills.

What do you do when parties or clients are not paying?

Enjoy Kelly's suggestions:

Client not paying in a timely manner?
(Originally posted at Kolor Kube Blog

I work with the awesomest clients but keep running into these payment issues. They get busy in their work and put the payments on a back-burner. It is not their fault but it does hurt our cash flow.

There are a few ways that you can speed up the payment process, making certain clients easier to work with.

1. Payment Plans
A lot of companies have tight finances right now. They’d love to pay off your invoice, but they just wound up over-extended. If you can offer a payment plan, you can make sure that you still get paid. You may not get paid in full immediately, but a payment plan is better than having to keep calling and asking about when your client will be able to pay you.

2. Early Payment Discounts
Some clients just delay to the last moment the invoice is due because it gives them the benefit of having money stay in their accounts just a little longer. If you can offer a benefit for paying an invoice immediately, those clients will remit payment much faster. You may have to raise your prices a little to be able to comfortably offer a discount to any client who pays within a certain number of days of receiving an invoice, but it’s worth it.

3. Late Payment Penalties
There are some clients who just won’t send you a check because there’s no reason for them to get moving. For them, there’s no difference between sending out your money today and next month. A penalty creates a difference: if your client doesn’t pay by the due date, it’s reasonable to request an additional fee for the extra work that goes along with late invoices.

4. Communication
Occasionally, a project will end and a client will unintentionally forget all about you. But if you’ve been in constant communication and suddenly you’re not, an invoice can get lost in the shuffle. Something as simple as following up on a project can guarantee that you stick in a client’s memory.

5. Reminders
Don’t be afraid to send out reminders of invoices to clients. You probably won’t get the best response if you send out a reminder the day after you send your invoice, but as you’re nearing the due date, a reminder can be a good idea. Reminders sent before the due date should probably be worded differently than those sent afterward, however.

6. Escalation
In general, it’s best to keep the billing process polite. But if you have a client who consistently makes payments after they’re due, it’s worth taking the matter to the next step. What that next step is depends: Maybe it’s having a serious discussion with your client. Maybe it’s a matter of not starting the next project until you receive payment for the last. Maybe it’s time to fire the client in question. You have the right to be paid on time, but sometimes you need to drive that fact home with a client.

If you enjoyed this, visit Kelly's site [here] and tell her I sent you :)

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The ADR Book Club is starting February 6th, 2011. The idea and concept behind the book club is to bring various conflict resolution professionals, academics, students and practitioners together...

Tom A Kosakowski- Local Realtor boards across the US are turning to Ombuds programs in growing numbers to address concerns from consumers and Realtors. The first program was started by the California Association of Realtors and was well received. Subsequently, the National Association of Realtors adopted a policy that serves as the model for local Realtor organizations. (Although the NAR policy has been widely copied, it is not available online.)

Paul Merlyn- Spend a little time inside any mediators’ discussion group and it won’t be long before someone complains how hard it is to be a full-time mediator. Interestingly, they invariably externalize blame, attributing it primarily to two causes: (i) prospective clients don’t understand mediation; and (ii) access to cases is controlled by lawyers or the courts.
Yet neither is true...

Clare Flowers- ...The main thing to remember is: a show like Fairly Legal brings the word "mediation" up in conversation. It brings the word "mediation" up in Google searches.
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Mediation in prime time....I like it! (Fairly Legal)
Lynsee Swisher- The much anticipated "Fairly Legal" made its debut last night. Although, many may of not been on the edge of your seat waiting for this program to air but it sure had a ton of media hype the last few weeks.
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Fairly Legal or Barely Ethical?
Jason Dykstra
- There were many that found the show unethical, in bad taste, and not true to what mediation is. There were also many (non-mediators, generally) people that loved the show.

John C. Turley

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Commercial Mediation in Ontario- Colm Brannigan (1 Comment)
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Read. Engage. Learn... Are You In?

I would like to let everyone know I am going to take part in the ADR Book Club http://adrhub.com/group/adrbookclub starting February 6th, 2011.

The idea and concept behind the book club is to bring various conflict resolution professionals, academics, students and practitioners together.

I am not making money on this, nor is any group or organization (well, except for the the authors who write the books). This is simply an opportunity for all us to learn and be better at helping others in conflict.
Will you join me?
We will be reading books and analyzing each through a conflict resolution person's lens. The motto of the book club is Read, Engage and Learn. We engage by sharing our thoughts, reading other's comments and discussing various topics the book raised and how it applies to conflict resolution. This is how we can learn and grow and be more effective in conflict resolution and prevention.

The book club is open to everyone and free to participate.

The first book we will be reading is The Tipping Point (
here at Amazon) by Malcolm Gladwell. If you already read it, read it again with us and share your thoughts.

This really has the potential to be fun as well as thought provoking and I look forward to engaging everyone.

We are set to begin February 6th so you have more than enough time to get your book.

Here's the schedule and format:

* It Begins February (2/6/11)
* It will be hosted at ADRhub.com in a group section just for the book club

* The book is Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

* Each week starting on Sunday, a set of pages will be assigned to read
- Week one February 6th
Introduction, Chapter 1 & 2
- Week two February 13
Chapters 3 & 4
- Week three February 20
Chapters 5 & 6
- Week four February 27
Chapters 7, 8 & Endnote

* For each week, there will be a starter-discussion topic to get things going. The starter discussion will be based on the book while looking at it through a conflict resolution professionals lens. That said, you can post/write on anything you want.

* I ask that each participant to post an initial comment by Wednesday 9pm est. for each week

* I ask each participant to reply to at least one other person's comment by Friday 9pm est for each week
* Posting, comments and questions will be hosted by ADRhub in a new group created just for the book club: http://adrhub.com/group/adrbookclub as that will be easiest. No one owns the book the club and the rules are open to change. I am simply trying to get things moving. Btw, I do not view this as being successful if there are hundreds of people- success lies in each of the participant getting something beneficial out of this.

* Please help promote the book club. Feel free to put any of the attached graphics on your site, blog, group, etc. with the message below or one of your own as well as use #adrbookclub on twitter.

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Mediation Rally Across The Nation 01.19.11

"Hmmm, is she being evaluative here?"

(new television show on mediation debuts 01.19.11, above is the star of the show who portrays a mediator)

Mediation Rally Not Offering Color Cookies!

This is no joke, for those thinking the new show Fairly Legal is what will make mediation [insert any word you want such as popular, sexy, cool, known, etc], I just read this about their promo:

...Well, the USA Network thinks rallies to promote mediation are the answer and will hold events at Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square on Wednesday. With gray cookies. And signs reading, "No Litigation, Only Mediation."

So, who's going to be there to support mediation and who's going for the free gray cookies?

And finally, with all the comments I choose to share with everyone, I pick this:

Why gray cookies? Why not numerous colors as in the variety of options mediation offers?

Yes, I just commented on the color of free cookies being offered.

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What's Happening At ADRhub.com

Objectively Speaking, Neutrality is Difficult
Steve Mehta- Many times a month, I will be in a mediation and an attorney will tell me that “it must be so much less stressful to be a mediator than be in the practice of law.” Often, I respond by saying that being a neutral can be harder than being an advocate. Well recent research has affirmed this belief. This research shows that a neutral disposition can have a substantial toll on the body.
Tom Kosakowski- James T. Ziegenfuss, Jr., and Patricia O’Rourke have published a revised edition of their book, The Ombudsman Handbook: Designing and Managing an Effective Problem-Solving Program. The publisher's blurb says that the book, "presents the ombudsman in concept and in practice, offering full design and operational details from start-up to key activities and roles, as well as the benefits for the top executives, the employees and the customers." The book appears to cover the range of Ombuds practice, but especially Organizational Ombuds.
We live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain complex and ambiguous) world. The VUCA environment requires openness to new ideas and the adaptability to…

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Have You Reflected Lately? (For mediators, coaches and Ombuds)

After reading Alex Yaroslavsky's recent blog post titled "The Value of Language," I thought about reflection and debriefing. It is something I think is very valuable and is critical for mediators to do in order to learn and develop into a more effective mediator.

One thing that comes to my mind is though does everyone debrief?
For mediators that have their own practice and work by themselves, do you debrief? Do you find it effective doing a self debrief compared to debriefing with someone else? Is it even practical to be able to debrief with someone else? For conflict coaches and ombudsman- how do you debrief after a session with a client?

From my experience, it seems much easier for mediators working with community mediation centers to have the opportunity to debrief, especially with someone else, however I wonder what does everyone else do. That does not mean though it is impossible or not worth doing for those who mediate alone.

Do I debrief?
Admittedly not as much as I should. When I do, the method I choose is is to take a quiet moment, yes sometimes that actually is while on the New York City Subway, and reflect on what happened, the good, the bad, the simple and complex. Sometimes I go over it in my head, and other times I use my moleskin notebook (as recommended by Amanda Bucklow on Cafe Mediate) to jot down notes and thoughts as they come to my head. I ask myself, "What worked, and "What didn't work" while also asking myself why I think something did or did not work.

For me it helps me understand. Sometimes it helps me actually understand that I did not understand what was going during a moment in the mediation and other times, yes, I do "pat" myself on the back.
Positive reinforcement is something I suggest each mediator, conflict coach and ombudsman do. Debriefing does not have to be just analyzing what you think you did wrong and what you might have done differently. Make sure to take time to think about the good you did. This positive thinking allows you to not only be mindful of what to try and repeat in future situations but also allow yourself to actually feel good.

Here are some tips that help me while debriefing:

  • Actually take the time to reflect

  • Try to do it as soon as the session completes

  • Ask yourself could you have done something differently?

  • Make a list of what you did good

  • Try discussing it with someone else (yes, this is possible while maintaining confidentiality)
For those that have your own style of debriefing, how does this compare to your style? For those who do not, do you think it might help?

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Podcast Series #14 Conflict Coaching WIth Cinnie Noble

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Episode #14

Conflict Coaching With Cinnie Noble

Join host Jeff Thompson and internationally known conflict coach and trainer Cinnie Noble. They discuss conflict coaching, training, her upcoming book, tips for success and more. .

Subscribe to the new series by click the image below:

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Beating Skeptics

Ever find yourself explaining the mediation, conflict coaching or ombuds process to people who seem to be skeptical of the process?

Okay, if you said no, either you are very new to the field or somehow magically mastered the process of convincing people to love it before you even have to explain it.

For those of you like me, who come across people who are skeptical for various reasons, including not being fully aware of what mediation/coaching/ombuds is or isn't, I found the following article from Dan Rockwell, of the 'Leadership Freak' blog, titled Beating Skeptics.

He offers the following points with my comments added to each:
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