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2. Unconventional Trainings

An easy place to inject creativity is with the trainings and CLE programs that mediators conduct for clients or potential clients.  Introducing a bit of pop culture can sometime lead to a connection with participants who are less than enthusiastic at being at the training. For example, some employers and unions who want to engage in a collaborative collective bargaining negotiation kick off their talks with a training. The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission's trainers use the parent/child dispute embedded into Parents Just Don't Understand to teach interest-based bargaining principles. They also use a fact pattern called "Paradise City" that includes a characters named Slash, Duff, Axl or Rose, and real life employer/employee dispute between Marshawn Lynch's and the Seahawks about talking to the press.

Pop culture references can be more overt and be used as a metaphor throughout the training. A prime example is the Negotiation Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse CLE program that occurred on Oct. 31, 2016.

The danger of pop culture references is pop culture may not be universal. Do not assume that everyone in the audience will understand the pop culture reference, and build in enough explanation and context so that it can be inclusive. The zombie CLE included a short video that defined zombies. The “Parents Just Don’’t Understand” exercise always begins with the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince video and a copy of the lyrics handout.  

An engaging format can also inject some creativity into a training.  For example, at the Northwest Chapter of LERA’s 41st Annual Collective Bargaining and Arbitration Conference that will occur in Seattle in April 2018, participants will compete in a trivia “pub quiz” as they earn ethics CLEs. Even simpler formats borrow tricks from David Letterman and Buzzfeed. Letterman’s top ten list is a classic structure to organize concepts and building suspense. The LERA conference will have a session with this structure entitled “Ten Ways to Accidentally Commit a ULP.”   And Buzzfeed’s articles like “9 Life-Changing Beauty Product You Need to try ASAP” inspired this session’s “7 Ways” format.