When life becomes routine we are more likely to overlook details or, conversely, we cannot see the forest for the trees. In both instances, what we may lack is a creative outlook on the situation at hand. In negotiations, creativity can lead to value-creation for both parties. Coming up with innovative ideas in the middle of the collaborative process can be difficult, so how does the skillful negotiator change her mindset to become more creative? The March 2012 issue of the Negotiation newsletter offers three practical tips for obtaining more creative deals with your counterpart in negotiation.
First, try breaking the problem down into more easily managed component parts. This constructs a multi-issue negotiation out of what at first is a single-issue negotiation, allowing both parties to make tradeoffs based upon their differing preferences. To engender a creative and collaborative environment, you should ask many questions and listen intently to the answers given, with an eye toward using this information to reconcile your respective differences during the course of the negotiation. Additionally, opening up the table to multiple proposals acts a social cue that you are flexible and open to suggestions, inviting similar behavior from your counterpart.
Second, use deal structuring to help to close the divide on differences or “barter your way to the finish line.” This tactic is best for determining what each side can and cannot do, and the dialogue that emerges from this process helps to bridge the divide between the parties and their respective capabilities. By adding conditions to an agreement, each party can create value in the course of the negotiation for their side.
Last, it is often helpful to play ‘mind games’ or to create cognitive maps that both reduce the group mentality and foster creative outlooks. For example, the negotiator can outline the issues at hand and create word associations in a process called ‘mind mapping,’ or she can choose to ‘flip’ the situation, that is she can consider the opposite of any given scenario or proposal. These two tactics break negotiators out of the mold and open up avenues for value-creation between the two parties. Rather than two groups with fixed interests and objectives meeting and hammering away at each other at the bargaining table, the process becomes collaborative and creative – two mindsets well-suited to engaging in future negotiations with one another and others.
Adapted from “So you want to reach a more creative agreement…but how?” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, March 2012.