Resolution Road


Last week I did a presentation for my local Chamber of Commerce.  The topic was dispute resolution for small business.  You can see it here, on SlideShare.

In preparation for the presentation, I was looking to create a simple diagram that conveyed my approach to thinking about, and dealing with conflict, and that I could use as a road map for getting to resolution.  Here’s what I came up with:

The road to resolution all starts with attitude; a mindset of positivism, abundance, reframing, collaboration.  Authentic conversations can then follow.  Its conversations that bring us together, and its through conversation we change (e.g., our position).  Connection happens when we bridge differences, find common ground, balance me AND we.  Iteratively, we reach agreement, and specifics, for moving forward in constructive ways.

The U

The U shape visualizes the path from dispute to resolution.

It borrows liberally and literally from the U concept, a conceptual model defined by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer and others a concept for describing the change journey, starting with 1) observation, 2) reflecting/sensing new possibilities, and 3) acting swiftly when the decision is made to go forward.

The U shape also aligns an idea presented by Seth Godin in his book, The Dip; about results vs. effort slogging through the dip, relentlessly changing tactics (e.g., to break impasse), yet never quitting the big idea (resolution).  Of course, Seth also advocates for knowing when not persist; i.e., quit and move on.

The U shape seems intuitive to me.  We need to have friction before we can move forward.  Moving forward can be incremental or seem like a sling-shot, into the future.

And with any new challenge, we often approach it with initial enthusiasm, our energy sags as we discover being a resolutionary is hard work, and then either pack it in, or persist through to agreement and resolution.

Yes, resolving disputes is hard work

Even if we start off with the right attitude for resolution, invariably we come up against roadblocks.  It’s not a linear world.  Things often happen in random ways.  Dealing with that uncertainty (or reality, as the case may be) is stressful.  Confidence is required, to live with uncertainty, and the discomfort that comes with it, while still remaining open to creative tactics and the bigger (strategic) picture.

Resolution Road is built on a collaborative approach to problem-solving; focusing on relationships, getting together for conversation (often half the battle to resolving a dispute), making connections, and crafting mutually-satisfying agreements.

That is my Resolution Road.

What image do you hold in your mind’s eye, for getting to resolution?

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  1. I really enjoy the U shape image Ben, I haven’t read “The Dip” yet (but it’s on my list) but it also reminds me of the emotional swing we go through. When we are at the top of the U it is hard to make decisions because we have high emotions. When we swing down the U we are able to make more rational decisions and then can use that momentum to grow that relationship. Thanks for sharing Ben!


  2. Thanks Jason. Astute point you make about emotional swings… and how our emotions influence our thinking and decision-making ability. Descending the U has a lot to do with letting go. Once we’ve let go, and no longer hijacked by our emotions, its as you say… we can better sense the opportunity and build momentum to grow the relationship. And, maybe your emotional swing equates with the playground swing? Another image to ponder over… ha ha

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