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Get To The Point, And Get It Across, With A Mediation Mind Map

From John DeGroote’s Settlement Perspectives

A sample Mediation Mind Map, available in .pdf format here.

You’ve been there before. You’ve done your homework to prepare for the mediation, ready to engage over the issues in the case. A trial bag filled with critical notes, important documents, and detailed spreadsheets sits within arm’s reach. But the other side speaks first, and offers something insightful like: “My client’s Widgetmaster doesn’t work; since you made it, you owe us money.” Now it’s your turn.

Sometimes it takes a little more effort to untell a story than to tell it. In most disputes negotiation success depends on a command of the details, and in your next mediation the outcome may hinge on your mediator’s ability to remember those details on the fly. Do you have a way to get them across to your mediator before she meets alone with the other side?

What Is a Mind Map Anyway?

After years of 3-ring binders, graphics and white boards, I have learned that a mind map is often the best way to organize and communicate the complex, critical information you — and your mediator — will need to convey before the case can settle.

A mind map is a tool that helps you build, marshal and store ideas and information. Mind maps are diagrams, each with a key idea at its center — say, the BiggCo v. Acme Tool mediation diagrammed above and accessible here. As you can see, important themes, ideas and tasks, and links to documents and other materials, radiate out from the key idea in the center of the map. Everything is where you need it — rather than behind Tab 26 in that big, black notebook.

When used as a presentation tool, the structure of your map can help to make your arguments more memorable – more “sticky” – for your audience. And since I don’t have much time to arm my mediator with the critical facts she needs, in context, mind maps have become my mediation tool of choice.

A Few Pointers for Your Mediation Mind Map

Whether you hand your map to the mediator, project it on a wall for your team and your mediator to see, or keep it up on a big-screen laptop, a mind map like the Acme Tool map I have attached can be your key to accessing and conveying critical details across to your mediator in real time. A few of the key points on this particular map include:

  • The Information You Actually Need — At Your Fingertips. This map serves as a dashboard where everything you need for the mediation — from key phone numbers to your mediation presentation to the “Mediator’s Cheat Sheet,” everything is accessible from one screen (assuming you use a software-based mind map).
  • Argument Outlines. Section 3, on the right side of the map and titled “Legal, Factual and Procedural Points,” includes the key facts and arguments you want to convey and reinforce to your mediator; you’ll zoom in on these points as you arm your mediator with information and relevant details. Where appropriate these facts and arguments refer to key evidence in the case — for example, “No Real Damages” refers to the Davis Deposition to remind you that Davis’s testimony negates BiggCo’s damage theory.
  • Hyperlinks to Key Documents and More. Fast access to key documents and deposition testimony in mediation can be critical. As you can see, key documents and depositions are listed at the bottom right of the map in Section 4, and the small white boxes attached to each represent hyperlinks to those source documents. By the time you get to mediation, most “legs” of the map will include hyperlinks to additional documents — for example, Section 5, “Competitive Analysis/Settlement Leverage,” includes a hyperlink to a section of your Settlement Plan that you may need to access in your mediation.
  • Additional Information You’ll Need. How many times have you been in mediation and thought that a draft settlement agreement would be nice to have? (Better yet, how many times have you spent a month on your settlement agreement after your lawsuit supposedly settled at mediation?) Have you ever needed to see the actual terms of your insurance policy during your mediation? These documents and more can be gathered, prepared and hyperlinked to your map before mediation day.

A Few More Resources to Get You Started

Mind maps are useful for more than your next mediation; they’re a great way to organize a dispute from the outset, too. The MediationChannel, the Settle It Now Negotiation Blog and the IP ADR Blog have previously discussed how mind mapping can help you analyze what’s important to your case. For a great example of a mind map used to analyze a complex dispute, the Settle It Now Negotiation Blog has posted the “Barest Sketch of a Litigation Mind-Map” here.

If you want to learn to mind map I recommend you start with this 43 Folders post and then browse through 99 Mind Mapping Resources, Tools, and Tips and 100+ Tools, Resources, and Tutorials, featured previously by mediator Anthony Cerminaro at BizzBangBuzz. And when you’re done, get inspired by some of the sample maps available on

For those who may be interested, I created the attached map with Mindjet Mindmanager 7 for Mac, but I’ve also had great results with Novamind Pro and Mindjet Mindmanager 8 for Windows, which I use on my company laptop, and there are other ways to get your map done for less that can be found in the links listed above.

Try a mind map for your next mediation. You’ll be glad you did.


John DeGroote

John serves as a mediator and arbitrator in complex business, technology, and intellectual property matters involving parties and interests around the country and beyond — often before litigation is filed. Prior to his service as a mediator and arbitrator, John served as the lead settlement negotiator in hundreds of cases,… MORE >

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