Discussion Forum - Encouraging settlement by rewarding collaboration

Encouraging settlement by rewarding collaboration

Discussion Framing Statement:

Smartsettle One+ is on display this week. This is an implementation of Visual Blind Bidding that encourages settlement by rewarding collaborative negotiating behavior. You are welcome to take it for a test drive and pit your skills against various opponent types. We would be very interested to hear how it works for you.

You may participate in the simulation via the following link:


Moderators’ Bio:

Ernest Thiessen is President & Founder of iCan Systems Inc. Dr. Thiessen has led iCan’s research and development efforts for over two decades to implement the ICANS patent, creating the world’s first secure multiparty negotiation support system on the Internet. Thiessen has been a guest speaker at most of the Annual International Forums on Online Dispute Resolution since they began in 2002. Prior to founding iCan Systems Inc. in 1993,Thiessen worked for seventeen years as a consulting engineer and researcher in Canada and in Nepal. Thiessen received his PhD degree from Cornell University in 1993, majoring in Water Resource Systems Planning and Analysis in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. While at Cornell University, Thiessen invented an efficient methodology to provide comprehensive support to very complex negotiation problems. This methodology has been patented and is now embodied in both Smartsettle One+ (for the simplest possible cases) and Smartsettle Infinity (for the most difficult multivariate multilateral cases). Ernie is passionate about using technology for peacemaking and sustainable development.


Carissa Boynton is a senior researcher, trainer and expert Smartsettle facilitator at iCan Systems Inc. Carissa has been employed as a facilitator, trainer and other related positions since 2003 and has been involved in a variety of complex negotiations during that period. She is an expert user of the entire suite of Smartsettle negotiation products from One+ to Infinity. Carissa has a passion for efficiency and fairness that she brings to her work, and cultivates leadership in the community through volunteer involvement at museums, discussion forums and theatre. Carissa is both well read and well travelled, and brings an intelligent global perspective to the company. Her optimistic and professional attitude is beneficial in teaching people how Smartsettle can be used to achieve timely and optimal results in very complex situations.


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Good morning everyone! It's a rainy day on the west coast. Our day starts a little later than some of you. We'd love to get your thoughts on what we're doing. If you'd like to take Smartsettle One+ for a test drive we have staff standing by ready to engage with you now. More grist will be coming here shortly but feel free to jump in. 

Hello! We believe in making conflict resolution easier and more accessible to everyone on a level playing field. Join our vision by taking Smartsettle One + for a test driving and spreading the word. Are you ready to join the Smartsettle movement? What type of conflict do you believe would see the most benefit from Smartsettle's involvement?

I have been mediating (offline) for about 10 years, and I am relatively new to ODR.  The Smartsettle tool is fascinating and I was not aware that such a thing existed.  Smartsettle One+ seems to be a very useful tool for situations like the widget scenario.  I can imagine that the anonymity (in the offers, chat feature, and comments at the beginning), the ability to make secret and public offers, and not having to worry about saving face (with a mediator/other party at the table) could help level the playing field a great deal and assist parties who are seeking compromise.  The chat feature can also allow some amount of discussion between the parties about what their common interests are which may approximate some of the discussion that happens in some in-person mediations.  The process is also efficient and could do a lot for disputes that the participants would like to resolve quickly and conveniently.

The tool seems less useful in a situation like the potato farmer/french fry co. scenario.  These are two entities with ties to the community that both have interests in making a profit, keeping the environment sustainable, and keeping up good ongoing relations.  I think of collaboration (rather than compromise) as a process in which all parties discuss not only the bottom line issue(s), but the underlying interests and seek creative solutions rather than simply looking for a middle ground between two set parameters.  In addition, one of the benefits of mediation (which can happen in an online environment but may need audio and possibly video to be as effective) is that the parties have the opportunity to see each other as other human beings, empathize with each others' concerns, and be motivated to seek creative solutions.  Even if this happens in the chat, the format of the agreement seems to prohibit anything other than choosing a number that the parties agree on.

I have two questions for Smartsettle and/or others who have done more online mediation than I have.

1. When I tried to discuss underlying interests with the french fry company, I got the message that Smartsettle Infinity might be able to address more than one issue.  Does that tool simply offer the same platform with multiple metered negotiations on different issues?  Is there more to it?

2. What tools (technological or otherwise) have others used to encourage creativity and collaboration in an online environment?

Thank you Shannon for your comprehensive comments. Indeed, Smartsettle Infinity would be our first choice as early intervention for Crystal River cleanup. Infinity is able to address any number of quantitative and qualitative issues among any number of parties. Infinity is designed to help the parties uncover hidden value and bring them to the efficiency frontier. In the example posed we are assuming that Smartsettle is a latecomer and the parties have already settled everything except the percentage of water to recycle. When parties become exhausted in a dispute resolution process it becomes difficult to revisit the issues that they think are already solved. 

As to the second question, what we find most useful is creation of a Single Negotiating Framework (SNF). This is like the final agreement, except for blanks representing issues left to resolve. Before moving to Infinity (or Smartsettle One+ if there is only one issue left) the parties are encouraged to associate negotiating ranges with each of the issues. Earl Nightingale said that a well-defined problem is already half-solved. In our experience defining the negotiation problem with an SNF goes a long ways. 

Great comments Shannon, allowing the parties to have the opportunity to interact and empathize with each other is an important aspect of many dispute resolution processes.

Smartsettle Infinity (''Infinity'') is always our choice when more than one issue needs to be resolved. In Infinity the development of the all important Single Negotiating Framework (SNF) is key to establishing what issues are to be resolved. In a normal Infinity SNF collaborative process the parties are free to interact in a variety of ways depending on their preference.  

Once the issues are formulated, the parties establish negotiating ranges and then allocate a private level of importance (satisfaction) to each issue. A party may set their satisfaction levels on an issue to vary in a non-linear way.

In order to encourage creativity and collaboration Infinity generates suggestions to the parties for their consideration based on the information Infinity has regarding all the positions. These suggestions hopefully challenge negotiators to view options that they may otherwise never consider. 

As you may gather I am a member of the Smartsettle team and there is indeed a lot more to Infinity.


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