Whether you run a small retail or manufacturing business, a service outfit or act as a solo consultancy, you must have at one time or another been personally involved in some difficult negotiation that tested your mental powers to the limit.
As you wracked your brain for solutions, thought up ways to secure the best deal for yourself and visualised solutions to protect your interests, it’s hard to argue that your imagination wasn’t being stretched.
I came across some research the other day about creativity not really playing a significant role in negotiation. I’m not sure I even understand these academics but in my experience and observing other business people locked in negotiation I’m absolutely convinced that creativity does make a difference in negotiation.
Before we see how creativity influences negotiation, let’s look at what negotiation means. In the real world, all the academic definitions of negotiation don’t make much sense. What’s more grounded in reality is that negotiation is really about finding some sort of agreement that is mutually acceptable. It might require compromise. But if you don’t like the envisaged outcome you can always say no and walk away.
Negotiation is important to all of us because we do it all the time. At home, at work, at play.
I recently participated in several role playing negotiations. What I was struck by was that the negotiations deadlocked every time for these reasons: The negotiation team members did not creatively imagine their opponents’ world. They did not fully understand the world of their customer or seller and therefore could not make a fully imaginative assessment of their needs, wants and desires. With more creative thinking, viewing the problem from different perspectives, they could have immersed themselves more fully in their customer’s world.
The other area where they could have used more creativity was to brainstorm and invent more options for mutual gain. And in instances where there was no hope for this, they could have walked away from the deal.
Making conditional proposals, so the other side can’t get what they want from you without you getting what you want from them in return, requires creativity. So does setting the agenda or order of business. Deciding what issues to discuss first and which ones to deal with later is a very creative act especially when the stakes are high.
These are just a few instances of creativity in negotiations. In these economic times it is crucial that you negotiate the best deal with your customers, suppliers and other business people.
Leaving money on the table doesn’t only leave a bad taste in your mouth, it also hurts your bottom line.