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What’s Next?: Conflict Resolution

“What’s Next?” is privileged to interview Noah Hanft, the President and CEO of The International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (CPR) and an expert in conflict resolution. Noah discusses the importance of resolving and presenting conflicts in corporate settings—and why it’s become such a coveted discipline in corporate deliberations.

Why has conflict resolution and prevention become increasingly important in corporate deliberations in recent years?

There are many answers to this questionand they are all essentially why CPR exists! Law departments are increasingly run as business-oriented units, more focused on results than on the practice of litigation, per se. Companies have come to realize the massive savings created when they implement more thoughtful approaches to the inevitable conflicts that arise in business settings.

Particularly in transactions involving joint ventures, tech partnerships and long-term sustaining relationships, the need for companies to have preventative approaches to avoiding the festering of disputes is paramount. Litigation costs continue to rise with E-Discovery, and law departments and companies are experiencing significant savings by utilizing early dispute resolution.

What’s the role that CPR plays in educating corporate counsels about the value of conflict resolution?

From our inception, CPR’s mission has been to find creative ways to prevent and resolve disputes in the corporate arena. Whether it be through our cutting edge tools, trainings and other resources, our committees (such as our recently-formed Transactional Dispute Prevention & Solutions Committee), or impactful projects such as the mass claims handbook a CPR commission created a few years ago, CPR is continuously focused on educating corporate counsel about how more effectively to manage business conflict.

Working with a number of leading companies, we’ve also been particularly focused, recently, on education and program-building in the area of early dispute resolution. In fact, we just recently honored one of our members, Monsanto and its VP of Global Strategy, Scott Partridge, for innovatively utilizing CPR processes to create an industry-wide dispute management system that recognizes that disputes will arise; implements strategies to address them; and creates a platform for companies to address issues going well beyond disputes and into building opportunities for pro-competitive collaboration and innovation.

What areas of work have you targeted for future development?

The proliferation of cross-border and joint-venture agreements, and how ADR expertise and thinking can benefit them from deal inception, are definitely ripe for future focus and development. The use of standing neutrals in deals and business settings is another area we are spending significant time exploring with our members. And a few final areas I’ll mention today include the use of ADR in government, and of course CPR’s ongoing efforts to enhance and promote an ADR culture around the world. Our work successfully driving a mediation culture in Brazil in the past few years is an excellent example of the impact of CPR’s ongoing global focus.

Is the U.S. automotive industry a particularly important arena for conflict resolution? What lessons can other industries take away from Craig Glidden’s leadership for GM?

All businesses and industries over time will inevitably confront business and legal challenges, and the automotive industry has seen its share. The true test is how they deal with them, and GM has passed that test with flying colors—demonstrating both a very thoughtful approach and a willingness to find ways to resolve disputes in an efficient and effective manner.

In sum, litigation is on occasion an inevitable vehicle for companies to use, but in CPR’s view it’s really about the end game and outcome. GM has a laser focus on resolving challenges optimally“redefining winning,” to quote CPR’s tag line, so they can move on with the business of making and selling automobiles. And that is why CPR is very proud to be honoring GM and Craig Glidden at our upcoming Corporate Leadership Award Dinner on October 18, 2016.

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