Transformative Mediation as a First Step in Business Planning

An interview with Louise Phipps Senft, Founder of Baltimore Mediation

Transformative Mediation as a First Step in Business Planning

Transformative Mediation as a First Step in Business Planning 666 863 Hutchison Law

Let’s write a song together. Let’s make a product together. Either one of these statements could start a market-changing conversation between two creative people. Whether the conversation happens in a coffee shop or a machine shop, the conversation may fail to address the bumps in commercializing the co-created intellectual property. These bumps may ultimately cause harm to the co-creators’ business and personal relationships. In this interview with Louise Phipps Senft, Founder of Baltimore Mediation, we learn how using a transformative mediator early in a business relationship encourages smooth commercialization of intellectual property.

Currents of creative energy pass between the two coffee drinkers during that first conversation. Louise describes the budding business relationship as follows: “We just sizzled with each other. We like each other. Let’s figure something out together.” The creative people want to ride that sizzle. They don’t want to address vulnerabilities in a potential business relationship. As Louise states, “Their relationship is exciting, but it is fragile.”

Both creators believe their product will succeed commercially. However, each coffee drinker may have a different view of, for example, targeted customers, risks, workloads, or compensations. Co-creative endeavors are more likely to fail for lack of agreement on a commercialization process rather than a lack of funding of the commercialization process. Louise explains, “The most common reason is that people themselves couldn’t, between the two of them, get an idea out.” The co-creators must shift their paradigm from creating to commercializing.

Louise recommends that the co-creators engage a neutral, transformative mediator at the outset of the co-creative endeavor. A transformative mediator doesn’t “have any stake in the horse race except to help those two people have quality dialogue and make the most informed decisions that they can.” Understanding transformative mediation begins with a discussion of relational reciprocity. “Relational reciprocity is the belief that people neither want to be victim or victimizers,” and is a core construct of transformative mediation. Relational reciprocity overturns traditional notions of competition in business relationships. Specifically, when negotiating, relational reciprocity requires a change in mindset from “I will protect myself even if it means that you are exposed,” to “I am looking for something that is good for me and for you.” Guiding principles of a partnership or other resulting business entity flow from open, quality dialogue rather than a competitiveness inherent in most after-the-initial-coffee-talk discussions.

Quality dialogue springs from hypothetical exercises. The hypotheticals may address, for example, perceived sales forecasts, perceived time commitment (I can’t give up my steady job for this!), or sales thresholds before dissolution. Through a neutral-mediated dialogue, the co-creators can deepen their understanding of business functions and legal requirements, as well as deepen “their relationship and their understanding of how they are going to create whatever they are joining a venture on.” Louise further highlights that working with a transformative mediator helps to “put it on the table – do we think we have a good enough idea, and do we like each other enough?” Through open, quality dialogue, “a deep respect will emerge or will be highlighted that there is not a whole lot of respect.” Simply, the transformative mediator helps the co-creators define value and whether the co-creator endeavor adds value to each co-creator. Through the hypothetical discussion, the co-creators “become more business entrepreneurs rather than just creative entrepreneurs.”

The law gives rights to co-creators. Each joint inventor associated with a patent application and each joint author associated with a copyrightable work owns an undivided interest in the patent application or authored work, respectively. The joint inventors or joint authors may decide to retain or assign their ownership rights. In either case, without attention to the fragile co-commercialization relationship, the endeavor may not reach commercial success worthy of the co-created intellectual property. Louise Phipps Senft and her team at Baltimore Mediation offer transformative mediation as a process for nurturing the relationship from the inception with quality, open dialogue. Take care of the creative relationship, and the creative output may reach its commercial potential.

I want to thank Louise Phipps Senft for sharing information about using neutrals at the start of a co-creative endeavor. To learn more about Baltimore Mediation, please visit Baltimore Mediation. You can learn more about transformative relationships in the book, Being Relational: The Seven Ways to Quality Interaction and Lasting Change, by Louise Phipps Senft and William Senft.


Hutchison Law, LLC has experience protecting intellectual property rights in innovations and co-creative endeavors. To learn more about our intellectual property practice, please contact us at 410-978-7287 or

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