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Field Notes

Wants Versus Needs

Mediation Focuses on Needs     

A few years back I was fortunate to participate in a Harvard Law School workshop on mediation led by Frank Sanders. Sanders, a long-time professor at Harvard Law, was a pioneer in alternative dispute resolution. I took away two basic but crucial nuggets involved in dispute resolution that apply to the alliance profession:


  • The vast majority of civil cases, as much as 90% by some counts, are settled and do not go to trial.


  • Based upon the 90% statistic it strikes me that mediation skills, for alliance professionals in particular, are in greater demand than litigation experience.


Be clear about what the plaintiff wants to achieve – a satisfactory outcome – as opposed to what the plaintiff needs to satisfy that outcome.


One alliance partner might say, “I want this partnership to deliver ten million net incremental dollars in the first year.” For whatever reason the other partner might consider that too steep a hill to climb and counter with, “How much incremental revenue do you need to make this partnership a viable business for your company?”

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