- 2.5

Finding possible solutions

Version: 1.0

Are you using this tool?
VN:F [1.9.10_1130]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
VN:F [1.9.10_1130]
To what extent do you think this tool is useful?
To what extent do you think this tool is complete?
Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)


Support parties to develop many possible solutions

Solutions summary

Facilitators indicate that having many possible solutions makes it more likely a solution that works will be found.
  • Talking about possible solutions should not begin too early. First, each party needs to know that the other party understands and respects her interests. (Tool 2.4)
  • The key to finding solutions is to start from the interests of parties. You can use Tool 1.5 to map them. 
  • You can ask the parties to choose the interest they want to work on first. Then ask the parties to propose ideas for solutions that protect this interest. And possibly other interests as well. (Examples of questions can be downloaded here)
  • A list of possible solutions is developed. Making this list visible for both parties can help. On paper, blackboard or by using symbolic objects (glue for staying together, torn paper for splitting up).
  • Ask parties not to comment on solutions. Judgement is postponed until all options are listed.
  • Try to avoid talking about the size of payments or other 'how much' issues. Compensation can be listed as an option. You can use tools 3.1 to 3.4 for 'how much' questions.
  • When the list is ready, parties can look at combinations of solutions. Support parties to think freely. Strange proposals can lead to creative outcomes.
  • Many facilitators propose solutions. This can help. Proposals by the other party are often not trusted. It is often more easy to accept a proposal by a neutral. The best solutions are made by the parties together.
  • On basis of this long list of ideas the parties can discuss what solution is most acceptable to them.
  • You can ask parties which solutions meet the needs of both parties best.
This process can be repeated until all combinations are exhausted. Here are two lists of questions to help parties formulate solutions.  Encouraging Different Views on Solutions Generating Options for Different Solutions

Local solution: Conference Comments

Using guided options by mediators.
Sometimes solutions too soon can be harmful.
Recognize when tool /mediation is not appropriate.
Type of ADR?

1. What is impact?
2. How to impact?
3. How we do it?
4. How to improve?
logo van partner 


Local solution: Students: the Brainstorm Tool

An idea by: Patricia Booij Lieuwes Denise Haacke Maud Vennemans Marieke Zee


























Brainstom in 5 phases

Storm phase During this phase, both parties are going to make up 6 possible solutions in 3 minutes. The solutions may help to get to the final solution. Because of the time pressure, parties are being encouraged to think creative. No solution can be wrong, this has to be clear for all parties. It is important not to give criticism on any of the ideas, this because criticism can have a negative outcome on the quantity and quality of the ideas.[1] According to Fisher, Ury and Patton “joint brainstorming sessions have the great advantages of producing ideas which take into account the interests of all those involved, of creating a climate of joint problem-solving, and of educating each side about the concerns of the other’’. [2]

Exchange phase Both parties get to see the solutions the other party has made up. Each party chooses 3 solutions from the other party that they think can help them finding the final solution. Parties do not shout the ideas they come up with immediately, they have to write them done. This because brainstorming than is less productive; when one party gives his or her ideas the other party does not have the opportunity to give his or her own ideas, besides that parties can become unable to find new ideas themselves.[3]

Negotiation phase: Together both parties are going to discuss the solutions that are still left. Both parties put their 3 solutions next to each other. Now they can see which solutions may seem similar and which perhaps can be combined. Parties work up to a final solution that works for them both. According to Osborn it is easier to reduce a lot of ideas to a good idea, than to find a solution to the problems in one idea.[4] This is why we think brainstorming is so important; you can break through the difficulties in finding a way to work with just one solution, you can choose the best of all the possibilities given by the parties.


Composition phase:  Every solution that now is left can be combined to make 1 proper solution for the dispute.

Solution: Now the ultimate solution for both parties has been reached.

[1] H. Prein, Trainingsboek conflicthantering en mediation, Houten: Bohn Stafleu Van Loghum 2009, p. 275.

[2] R. Fisher, W. Ury and B. Patton, Getting to Yes; negotiating an agreement without giving in, New York 1991, p. 65.

[3] Diehl, M., and Stroebe, W. Productivity Loss in Brainstorming Groups: Towards a Solution of a Riddle, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53, 3 (1987), p. 497- 509.

[4] A. Osborn, Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving, New York: Scribner 1963.

logo van partner 

Added by: TISCO

Local solution: How to help the parties work together

Creative solutions that are identified by the parties themselves are often the most effective. How do you get parties to work on creative solutions, instead of blaming each other?

What to do

  1. Ask clear questions to all parties to help them explain as clearly as possible from their own perspectives so that they will be able to reach the point of solution they expect to result in. Confirm to everybody attending the meeting to ensure the exact point what a party has explained (for example, by restating what a part has said,”so, what you expect is…. Or, It means that you expect to….)
  2. Use the personal pronoun “WE” in forming questions and uniting the interests of each parties during the meeting
  3. In a dispute, each parties has “strengths and weaknesses” in arguing what he/she claims. If one of the parties keeps being reluctant with his/her opinion and argument, let him/her know about his/her weaknesses. For example, if one of the parties do not reach the point of negotiation about the land which is being disputed, remind them that the land he/she is claiming, from the legal status/perspective, is not really strong
  4. Involve authoritative figure  who is respected by all parties
logo van partner 

Added by: KBH

Evidence from practice

Making people see what happens if they do not find a solution: Facilitators of CEWLA in Egypt explain to parties the risks of  not finding a solution and going to court.

Emphasize that parties need to find a solution themselves: The Karen facilitators in north Thailand and lawyers for Praxis in Azerbaijan emphasize that the parties need to find a solution to the problem together and support creative thinking.

Ask Direct Questions: Praxis lawyers in Azerbaijan ask direct questions about parties' interests and needs. This helps to focus the discussion on the important issues.

Allow for different scenarios to exist next to each other. Sometimes the truth cannot be determined objectively. Or the perceptions of the parties on the facts, issues, possible outcomes are simply not compatible. In the Dutch Code of Conduct for Handling Personal Injury Claims, Principle 14 states: If circumstances are difficult to determine, parties consult on possible outcomes (scenarios).



Evidence from handbooks

Linked bargaining

This is the technique in which agreement on one aspect of the problem  is linked to finding an agreement on another aspect. Example: If A agrees that B can continue to live in the house, what could  B do for A to help him with the harvest?

Increasing the pie

This is a technique in which the facilitator guides parties to new solutions by increasing the scope of what is included in the negotiation.

Additional techniques for finding creative solutions:

  • making lists
  • develop one shared vision
  • engage experts
  • ask mediator to develop options
  • consult external sources
  • stimulate creativity en let go of negative framework

Schonewille, M. (2005) Mediation toolkit

Evidence from literature

Brainstorming instruction is an effective method for increasing the production of good ideasIt works for a particular type of creative thinking problems, and is even more effective if preceded by extensive training in its use.

				Effects of "brainstorming" instructions on creative problem solving by trained and untrained subjects.Parnes, Sidney J.; Meadow, Arnold
				Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 50(4), Aug 1959, 171-176.

: 4 steps to generate solutions:

  1. Separate inventing from deciding. Postpone the judgements of ideas
  2. Seek many options rather than look for a single answer
  3. Seek win/win ideas
  4. Make it easy for both parties to agree without loosing face
R. Fisher, W. Ury and B. Patton, Getting to Yes; negotiating an agreement without giving in, New York 1991, p. 65.

Parties may address issues one at a time, in an ad hoc manner. The parties may alternate choosing issues to discuss. They may work from most to least important issues, or from easiest to more difficult issues. They may start by identifying which issues are key, and which issues are contingent on other agreements. They may package issues together to enable balanced trade-offs.

Moore, C., The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict, 3th ed., San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2003

  Finding solutions through a creative brainstorm can produce novel and useful solutions. This is particularly true if all solutions each party can think of are written down without shouting them out, prior to a collaboration or exchange process. This accesses the largest number of possible solutions, thus improving the chances of finding an appropriate solution. Diehl, M. & Stroebe, W. (1987) 'Productivity Loss in Brainstorming Groups: Towards a Solution to a Riddle'. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 53(3) p.497

Creating a 'Concert'

Try to make sure that the facilitation is not conducted as a 'performance', where one person is 'performing' for all the rest. Generate a 'concert' where all participants are taking part. In this way, the best ideas will come to the fore.

The Handbook of Conflict Resolution (2006) Deutsch, M., Coleman, P. T., & Marcus, E. C. (Eds). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, US.

Finding possible solutions

by admin on March 14, 2011

Leave a Comment

Leave your comment

The Microjustice Workplace is powered by the Microjustice Initiative and facilitated by TISCO, Tilburg University.

Microjustice Initiative

P.O. Box 80523
2508 GM The Hague
The Netherlands
+31 70 3589221 (phone)
+31 70 3549766 (fax)


Faculty of Law, Tilburg University
Room M 907 (Montesquieu Building)
PO Box 90153
5000 LE Tilburg
+31 (0)13 466 2281 (phone)
+31 (0)13 466 2323 (fax)

Contact the Microjustice Initiative

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)


Your Message