I find myself writing this newsletter on Labor Day, which "honors the American Labor movement and the power of collective action by laborers, who are essential for the workings of society.” (Wikipedia)
“A World of Three Zeros”
Somewhat apropos, I am reading a fascinating book by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, titled “A World of Three Zeros – The Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions”. When I picked up the book at the library a few days ago, I did not realize that Prof. Yunus is the father of microfinance; he has also started numerous other businesses all over the world in the past four decades.
An early paragraph resonated with me: “The zero-sum assumption built into our economic theory encourages people to look for ways to become “winners” in the economic battle – which requires turning everyone else into “losers.” One result has been an alarming result in nationalism, xenophobia, mistrust, and fear.”
[If you are interested, but do not want to read the entire book, Prof. Yunus gave a Talk at Google in which he explains his projects and the philosophy driving them.]
The Myth of the Fixed Pie
I have written about the problem of the “fixed pie” or “zero-sum game” in mediation before. A good mediator will always look for ways to expand that pie, by seeking out the underlying interests and emotions driving the parties’ positions.
Of course, we are all pragmatic enough to recognize that some negotiations are, in fact, distributive (i.e., “zero-sum”) in nature.
But more often than not, reframing a negotiation based on underlying interests and goals, rather than on pre-conceived assumptions and positions, inspires new creative solutions that can benefit all participants.
A New Hope
In his “World of Three Zeros”, Prof. Yunus demonstrates that this reframe is possible not only in the case of an individual dispute, but on a global and scalable level. And that is certainly reason for optimism.