Stories and guiding myths get passed down through generations and shape how we approach negotiations in our daily life. Many situations we face for the sake of personal growth and global progress require each of us to renegotiate relationships with family members, as well as our deceased relatives and cultural heroes.
A key argument I make in Negotiating Inside Out is that one of the hardest parts of any negotiation is the one that happens inside your own head. Your own values and beliefs often get in the way of getting what you want. Sometimes, the values and obligations inherited from our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and ancestors have the most profound effects.
Like many other subjects, the study and practice of negotiation has become a club shrouded in acronyms. Insiders throw terms like BATNA and ZOPA around like everyone should be teaching their kid to spell them in their alphabet soup. For the rest of though, many of these acronyms are simply meaningless.
When you enter into a negotiation with one or more parties, it’s usually under the premise that you want to improve your current position. Maybe that’s a new job, selling your company or getting your young daughter to hold still while you brush her hair. When negotiating any arrangement, your BATNA is your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Or simply put, plan B.
The word negotiation conjures many connotations and meanings to people. Whether that be haggling with a car salesman or bargaining with your boss for a raise, most people don’t connect with negotiation on a positive level. Or at the very least, don’t consider themselves negotiators.
In reality though, each of us negotiates life, every moment of every day. Most people merely navigate these conversations or events; or simply look to not get the raw end of any deal.
But I believe that when you approach each negotiation with a purpose and a clear outcome in mind, you can work with the other party to achieve mutually beneficial results. I like to think of this as, intentional negotiation.
Want to excel in a negotiation? Understand the other party’s values. I’m not talking about monetary value, but rather those beliefs about our reality that we hold most dear.
What do I mean?
Let’s look at the fiscal cliff negotiations:
We can all agree on…
When negotiating, both the Democrats and Republicans ultimately want the fiscal solvency of our country. They also want long-term economic growth, lower unemployment and people back to work. At a high level, these values align. I think most of us would also agree on that.
While at one level, the fiscal talks are about money, in reality they are about values. Deeply held beliefs about how much money people (citizens) should be required to pay into the government, from what activities, and then how that money gets spent by the government.
The conflict ensues as each person, and thus each political party, begins to assign their own meaning to abstract terms like “fiscal solvency” and “economic growth”. For some, fiscal solvency means a balanced budget, while for others it means running a deficit at a percentage of GDP. Even within those factions there are people that disagree on what the size of that balanced budget or the percentage of GDP should be.
As discussions move from high layers of abstraction down to defining what each of these terms mean in concrete reality, people’s values start to collide.
One afternoon, way back in 2002 while taking an environmental science course at Johnson County Community College, our professor took us out to a local creek to test the quality of the water. One might think this would be as simple as purchasing a testing kit, dropping it in the water and seeing what color things turned. But, as it turns out, his strategy was far different.
Rather than deploying store bought testing kits, we collected various water samples and took them back to the classroom where we analyzed them under the microscope. Under careful scrutiny we were able to see that there were tiny aquatic insects living in the water. Barely noticeable to the naked eye, they revealed themselves under close and steady observation.
Belief in an outcome always precedes its realization.
When you enter into a negotiation, whether it be: negotiating your salary, selling a product or trying to get your three-year daughter to eat her vegetables, there are silent actors at play. They often operate in your subconscious, but ultimately dictate the outcome of your negotiations.
I had an interesting conversation with a colleague the other day about the value and price of big data.
He posited that as more people and companies figure out the value of big data, the price of buying datasets will go up, and thus a market opportunity exists to start snapping-up datasets.
I disagreed with him.
I argued that the value of data is relative and supply is inelastic, meaning data is going to continue to be generated regardless of its market price – and much of it will be available free. Therefore, price will approach zero in the long run.
So who’s right?
In the last three years, several technology trends in have begun to intersect. First, social networks took-off, led predominantly by Facebook and Twitter. The data being created in real-time by these networks is exploding at exponential rates. While most of the world has been focused on how to harness “Social Data” for everything from building corporate brands online to monitoring social uprisings across the world, something else has taken place beneath the surface.
The technology and infrastructure required to manage and analyze this data is evolving in significant ways. Open Source Projects have spun-out of Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others that enable a community of developers the ability to store and analyze enormously large sets of data at relatively no cost. The corporate world has long used data and analytics to be more competitive but now this technology has matured and is available to the masses.