The New Ombudsman and The Blue Ocean

20 August 2009

If you are a “regular” with the Organizational Ombudsman Blog you’ve noticed I weave the term “new ombudsman” into much of my commentary.  Within the context of my topics, my intent is no accident, as I am working to define new “Ombudsman ADR” in differentiation to what consumers perceive as traditional mediation, or legal ADR.  I’m “pro choice” and believe we need the legal profession to bring justice in applicable circumstances, but with the increased conflict and misery in the vast majority of societies globally, 7 plus billion people now, there should be an alternative for individuals seeking PEACE AND STABILITY versus material greed and punishing vengeance for less than criminal issues.  I could write forever on all aspects of this topic, but instead, let’s keep it to clarifying the definition of the “new ombudsman” and the “blue ocean” we can swim together as peace builders for groups of individuals in our organizations and communities.

First, the “new ombudsman” is a progressive philosopher and an eclectic thinker.  They are most likely a “boomer”, born of the 60’s movements and now, today, wise to the ways to not only live peacefully, but able to articulate, “practice what they preach” and technically translate education, knowledge and wisdom into a “new profession” to the benefit of others.  Yes, some are lawyers, some are psychologists, some are social workers, teachers, retired from the profession they now “mediate” to; it’s an “inclusive” mix of professions and people.  They didn’t know it, but looking back on their career and life they were using “ombudsmanship” all along and now want to make it their calling.  They are technologically savvy, can grasp and get a handle on complex (Gordian Knot) circumstances and issues, they can do mental analysis faster than a computer, they are skilled “generalists” in their life and profession, their degrees and certificates are “translatable and applicable” in terms of value towards peace making regardless of what “others” tell them and they know it and are not deterred.  More than anything else, they can “see outside the legal box” and let themselves guide clients to resolve conflicts in “their own self directed paradigm” with their own goals, values, morals, “relativistic” ethics and terms as the only basis that matters.  While this is highly idealistic the process helps “synergize” the exchange of culture, ideas, “different from mine” perspectives and thus provides the process for change and understanding.  In the end, the case may never reach the “consent” stage in The 6 C’s of Sociocratic Peace Building and the “new ombudsman” may never have “personal validation”, but in the end the “measure” is the practical outcomes or results of the process; or at least the cessation of conflict where they had the courage to “give it a try”.

As New Ombudsmen we will always have opportunity and clients everywhere we go, we are, capable of neutralizing opposing polarizing actions in formal “informal” processes, incognito and helping to harmonize life wherever the opportunity presents itself.  In Buddhism the first Noble Truth of the Four Noble Truths is:  life is suffering.  Indeed, there are all forms of suffering, some beyond our control, but what the Zen Buddhist knows, “if you see him”, is that we mostly make our suffering with each other.   In psychology my favorite “master” is Maslow because he was the only guy in the field to study “happy people” versus “anomalies and mental disease” that consumes practitioners to this day.  He discovered happy people get their needs met in his hierarchy of identified basic and optimal human needs model.  In our role as “new ombudsmen”, we might want to keep this in mind, you’d be surprised how this can reduce “suffering” if we can mediate with clarity for the employer and the employees, for example, or the corporation and the local community.  These types of issues don’t need “the law” to tell us what the solution must be.

When I wake up each day my job is to look at “The Blue Ocean” in my local community and through the “Windows” of my computer globally for my own practice and my clients.  Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant is a Harvard Business School published book by W. Chan Kim and Renee’ Mauborgne.  The contrast to the Blue Ocean in the book is the Red Ocean.  The definition is complex and ever evolving but basically Blue Oceans are markets, opportunities and as yet undefined industries that are evolving and “paradigm shifting”.  In Red Oceans, these are the traditional industry segments, clusters, targets, products, services that have a life cycle and are “controlled” by government and big business.  If you want to “contrast” this first hand for yourself as it relates to “our” industry, I STRONGLY recommend you read the Blue Ocean book AND Making Peace Making Money: Economic Analysis of the Market for Mediators in Private Practice  (January 2009) by Urska Velikonja a member of the Red Ocean “legal elite” and the Harvard Law School.  Her analysis is complete, accurate, concise and 100% valid for legal mediators… but I don’t swim in that ocean and the new ombudsman does not either.  I live in the Blue Ocean, the symbology of the color is very relevant for me personally and the vastness of the opportunity for all of us “new ombudsmen” is needed for decades to come in service to others who do not have “elite” access.

Lately, the new ombudsman in the “blue ocean” faces “establishment” challenges.  There are plenty of “traditional institutions, agencies and organizations” around to tell them “you don’t fit and you are not qualified”.  To get even more critical about it, the “red ocean sharks” would say we are equivalent to “quacks” in the medical profession… they too told “alternative medicine” for decades, “your methods are not valid, not approved or tested, not based on the laws of science and are against the law”.  In the handful of cases I’ve had so far in my new practice the last 11 months I had to “first hand” face a lawyer as a “party” in a complaint.  The lawyer was “mediation certified” and loaded with degrees and had “tried and tested” experience.  The “new ombuds” must be prepared and have the courage to face such scenarios towards peaceful resolution of disputes where legal practitioners get “entangled” or even instigate everyday “suffering” and “polarizing” as the legal, social and economic landscape shifts for “common people”.  These are just a very few examples, but this is going to go on for decades and makes up a small segment of the “blue ocean” for the new ombudsman.