ADR Times

A Lesson from Doctor Seuss: “Going Beyond Z”

This week, it is Doctor Seuss’s birthday.  Although I read his books
religiously as a child, I was recently reminded of his genius after
attending a presentation where the speaker highlighted various insights
from the books of Doctor Seuss.  I found one book to be particularly
relevant to the field of ADR. 

I’d like to share an important lesson that Doctor Seuss highlights in
his book “On Beyond Zebra.”  The book begins with a young man learning
the alphabet who proudly boasts about knowing all of the letters.  He
says, “I know them all well…I know everything anyone knows. From
beginning to end. From the start to the close. Because Z is as far as
the alphabet goes.”

His wise friend replies, “You can stop, if you want, with the Z. Because
most people stop with the Z…but not me. I’m telling you this cause
you’re one of my friends, My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends.”
He continues, “My alphabet starts with this letter called Yuzz. It’s
the letter I use to spell Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz. You’ll be sort of surprised
what there is to be found, once you go beyond Z and start poking

Upon reflection, many of the Seuss books have deep and profound
messages.  This book in particular, evidenced from the passage above,
highlights the importance of questioning the bounds of society, testing
the limits, and being curious.  Only by “poking around” can you begin to
uncover hidden factors and underlying interests. 

People generally—but especially those in a dispute—are close-minded to
new ideas and new world-views.  Humans have a tendency to unconsciously
generalize, delete, and distort information.  Therefore, the dispute
resolution professional must help the parties dissect the dispute,
breaking-down the problem into various puzzle pieces.1   In particular,
humans are wired to ignore details and information that does not help
our “side of the story.” 2   The parties need to open their minds to the
possibility that there is more to the story than meets the eye. 
Dispute resolution practitioners must help the parties unpack the
dispute and “go beyond Z” to uncover the true nature of the dispute.

As much as parties need to “go beyond Z” to understand the dispute, it
is equally important for parties to “go beyond Z” to find a solution to
the problem.  Being creative and using out-of-the box thinking is
essential to effectively resolving disputes.  I think Doctor Seuss was a
perfect example of out-of-the-box thinking.3   As we celebrate his
birthday, let’s remember to “go beyond Z” to better understand, then
solve disputes!

1 Jeffrey Krivis &
Mariam Zadeh, The Missing Link—Enhancing Mediation Success Using
Neuro-Linguistic Programming,  
2 Id. “Deletion is the
process of selectively paying attention to certain dimensions of
experience while excluding others.”  Id.  This technique allows people
to filter out what they believe is important and ignore the rest.  Id.
3 He wrote his
children’s books with adults in mind, believing that children have the
capacity to learn as adults.  He desperately wanted children to read and
have interesting reading material!  He developed his books with
important lessons in mind but was able to present them effectively and
in a way that kept children interested.
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