in Business Design

Design thinking for labor relations

Dr. Rudi Webster, a sports psychologist, is striving to improve the relationship between the West Indies cricket board and the players association prior to the 2007 Cricket World Cup to take place there. He’s advocating for a generative approach:

…I feel that the time has come to use a new paradigm to resolve this problem. If we use the current paradigm and stay in the same thinking box, the outcome will almost certainly be a win/loss situation, with West Indies cricket being the big loser. All stakeholders need to abandon their adversarial thinking and approach and engage in design thinking to find a win/win solution.

Recognizing this kind of relationship is usually filled with the kind of tension that can, in extreme cases, lead to violence, he calls for a third party to step in and help transform the way participants perceive the situation…

The goal of the third party is to convert a two dimensional fight into a three dimensional exploratory exercise, leading to the design of a win/win outcome. The real purpose of the third party is to create the concept of “triangular thinking”, where the third party is an integral part of the process, not an addition or an aid. What the third party is after is not compromise or consensus. Nor is it after negotiation in the usual sense of the word. It is not after arbitration, nor bargaining. It is not about showing who is wrong. It is simply about changing beliefs and perspectives and designing an optimal solution. Remember, it is beliefs that determine the limits of your achievements.

I find this fascinating as I see many effective organizations either avoiding unionization, as with Japanese auto manufacturing in the U.S., or turning unions into a competitive advantage.

This interview (.doc) with Dr. Webster explores his views on psychology.