A Win Win Negotiation Case Study Using Mind Mapping Negotiation Skills

A win win negotiation case study using a data-based dispute resolution method

By Katie Shonkon / Negotiation Skills

Here is a win win negotiation case study using mind mapping, a negotiation skill you should consider adding to your negotiation and conflict management strategies.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Zack Anchors describes how financial advisor Rob O’Dell of Wheaton Wealth Partners of Wheaton, Illinois used the unconventional technique in an attempt to help a client negotiate the sale of his shares of the family business to his younger brother, who hoped to pass the business on to his children.

The brothers had become embroiled in a dispute about who was more responsible for the business’ success and how to fairly split its assets. The conflict was spilling over to cause divisions within the extended family.


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“It was an ugly business divorce with a lot of moving parts,” O’Dell told Anchors. “There were other siblings involved who didn’t have ownership in the business, there was real estate, there were family dynamics and some complicated business finances.”

The brothers needed to better understand one another’s perspective, O’Dell realized. To help them do so, he drew upon mind mapping, a technique for diagramming complex information. A mind map begins with a central idea. Related ideas or sets of information are linked to the central idea as branches. O’Dell, who had been using mind-mapping software to help manage his firm, realized he might be able to apply it to help resolve his client’s dispute.

Win Win Negotiation Case Study: Collaboration, Not Antagonism, at the Bargaining Table

In a meeting with the brothers, O’Dell created a mind map with the family business located at its center. Working together, the three men added branches to the map (working on a computer with a large monitor) that included the business’ interests, assets, and liabilities. A branch about commercial real-estate holdings, for example, extended smaller branches that listed property taxes, valuation, and other figures.

“The brothers entered the negotiation with a competitive attitude, believing they had to fight for what they deserved,” writes Anchors. “But the process of creating the mind map required participation and collaboration, rather than confrontation.” As the screen filled, it became apparent that their interests overlapped.

The brothers reached a negotiated agreement that satisfied them both. O’Dell now uses mind mapping with all of his clients. Negotiators who would like to give this novel application a try can find free mind-mapping tools on the Internet.

Mind-mapping is not the only data-based decision-making approach for negotiators to employ as part of an an effective negotiation strategy. Decision trees and scoring systems are two other negotiation skills that you can use for conflict resolution. Working together on such analyses helps parties abandon their combative mindsets and adopt a collaborative, integrative negotiations approach to dispute resolution at the negotiation table.

What do you think about this negotiation case study? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


Related Negotiation Skills Article: Conflict Management – Evenhanded Decision Making

Originally published July 2013.