Having been one of the fortunate ones to go to a number of events at the 2012 Olympic Games in London (Athletics, Basketball, Beach Volleyball and Wrestling), I have been impressed by the atmosphere that has been created by the volunteers, armed forces, police and others working to make the competition a success. 

While pondering on what made all those involved so good I realised they were engaging in the true spirit of collaboration which negotiators, disputants and mediators could learn from:

1. Engagement: From the moment you leave the train station to the time you return to go home the level of engagement of the volunteers is extremely high. They are not nameless staff telling you where to go and standing back watching for you to do something wrong.  Rather they are smiling, making eye contact, making jokes and engaging with the spectators, which makes all of us, workers and spectators alike, feel part of the same experience.

2. Showing interest: This engagement is not only at a superficial level but one which shows real interest in the person.  Wanting to know where people are from and what they events they are going to see and swapping stories about those events.  Actually caring whether we had a good time when leaving the park!

3. Shared Objective:  In the true spirit of collaboration the volunteers understand that we all have the same objective: To enjoy the amazing experience that is the Olympics and to make them the best they can be.  This means that a feeling of all sharing in this together to achieve the objective becomes prevalent throughout the games venues.

If all those involved in conflict or negotiation followed the Olympic volunteers’ example and used these 3 simple ideas above, then a collaborative approach dealing with their issues would follow.


by James South (CEDR)

James South is CEDR’s Director of Global Training and Consultancy and has been mediating public and private sector disputes for 17 years. As one of the world’s most experienced dispute resolution trainers and consultants James is responsible for the development of CEDR’s leading courses in Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Management for legal and business organisations, the public sector, universities and professional bodies.