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Why Create?

In intractable conflict, there is often a false assumption of a “fixed pie”: the less for you, the more for me. The greatest opportunity in a negotiation is to take what seems like a fixed pie and see how it can be expanded for mutual gain so both sides can satisfy their interests. Shift an either-or mindset, in which either one party wins or the other does, to a both-and mindset, in which the basic interests of both can be addressed.

Shared interests lie latent in every negotiation, even if they aren’t immediately obvious. They are opportunities, not godsends. By considering a multitude of options, you may generate new possibilities, one of which might meet your interests while also satisfying the other side’s. Redirect energy toward attacking the problem instead of each other.

From the peace talks between Egypt and Israel at Camp David in 1978, William learned the power of uncovering shared interests to create options for mutual gain. The Camp David Accords led to a peace treaty that has lasted to this day.

Practice Create

  1. Invent first, decide later. Brainstorm without criticism to devise options that take into account everyone’s interests.

  2. Identify low-cost/high-value options. Identify small, meaningful gestures that each side can take that are low cost for them and high value to the other side to reduce fear and suspicion. Consider putting these ideas into a “trust menu.”

  3. Use wizards. Both sides can appoint “wizards” —lower-level, trusted, knowledgeable— to brainstorm ideas in deniable conversations and make recommendations. Oftentimes the best ideas come from wizards' conversations.

  4. Reframe. We each have the power to put a problem-solving frame around whatever is said.

Audio Series


This week’s episode takes us back to the Camp David agreement, where we see the power of creativity to break through deadlocked oppositions. William shares how the third side asked compelling “what if?” questions that led to creating a mutually agreeable solution. Listen as he shows how we can move from an either-or position to one of both-and — building a golden bridge between the parties.



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