Bite-Size 2018-06-10T02:53:58+00:00


Looking to keep your finger on the pulse, but short on time?

Enjoy our collection of bite-size thoughts and ideas on negotiation! From commentary on breaking academic research, to watercooler analysis of recent global politics, we keep you informed and your mind sharp… so you can be at your best when you need to negotiate for yourself or your organisation.

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811, 2018

60-40 Doesn’t Mean 60-40

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Why is it that even small polling differences nationwide can lead to a massive difference in political representation?

The answer is that polling percentages don’t get automatically reflected — or, more accurately, balanced out — across an entire nation. If Republicans are favored 60-40 in every single individual race across the USA, then Republicans will win every one of those races, and the actual representation will end up 100-0 in Republican favor.

Spend some time thinking about how this applies to your negotiated agreements, and to the structure of your organisations and work groups more generally.

For example, it doesn’t take a room full of antagonistic negotiators to leave a possible deal in ruins. It may only take a simple majority, or even a single, vindictive negotiator who has undue influence over everyone else’s attitudes and modes of thinking.

And if every component of a negotiated deal leans just a little on the side of bad faith or distrust, then the sum of those parts could feel outright hostile, or read as a declaration of war.

Beyond the good versus bad dichotomy also lies the question of what values, frames, and thought patterns you are dealing with. Even if only one person in the room really cares about the screen size of the laptops you want to buy, if they can influence a majority of that room to value their opinion, the entire sales process may come to revolve around that single factor.

So don’t just estimate the popularity of others’ opinions and desires; pay attention to how that popularity will actually manifest in more tangible outcomes, and whether it is over- or under-represented.

With thanks to: FiveThirtyEight

611, 2018

Aspirational Lockout

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“Indeed, as the renegotiations of NAFTA and KORUS suggest, the US is pursuing a “20th century” approach to trade, using its considerable leverage to force markets open and increase its advantages at all costs. Any potential American re-engagement with the TPP thus seems likely to undermine its “21st century” provisions and increase the unilateral benefits to Washington.”

Not all negotiated agreements are purely transactional or pragmatic in nature. Some agreements also try to be aspirational — they set lofty goals and values for all involved, and the principles behind the agreement may be considered vastly more important than any individual outcome.

If you gain a reputation as a self-interested actor, you may find yourself locked out of these aspirational deals.

Even if you could contribute value to the agreement, and even if every single other party would be better off with your involvement… the simple suspicion that you will undermine the integrity or intent of the agreement may be enough to sideline you permanently.

When guarding your reputation, try to move beyond considerations of ‘greedy’ versus ‘selfless’, or ‘cooperative’ versus ‘stubborn’. Think also in terms of what values you are aligning yourself with, and whether you can bear being locked out of agreements based on oppositional values in the future.

With thanks to: The Lowy Institute


311, 2018

New Data, New Senses

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“For example, the app could link to your morning alarm to get the day started with the smell of coffee, or could add fragrances to texts so that messages from different friends come with distinct aromas.”

It might sound bizarre, but international researchers are now working hard to find ways to transmit tastes and smells through smartphones. If the technology pans out, humanity will almost certainly adjust to it within a matter of years, just as we have adapted to the existence of person-specific ringtones, or even the use of the Internet generally.

In today’s world, it is no longer sufficient to simply be on the lookout for new data. We also have to keep watch for entirely new data channels — new senses — that are being established all the time.

When negotiating with others, listening to what they say and reading what they write may be only half the challenge. Be on the lookout for other communication channels that they are trying to establish with you; their selection of a very serious, solemn cafe might be entirely incidental, or it might be a deliberate message to you about the changing nature of your relationship.

With thanks to: IEEE Spectrum

2910, 2018

Everyone Has A Place

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“Spinifex grass: it’s spiky, dominates a quarter of Australia, and has no recognised grazing value. To top it all off, people have reportedly experienced anaphylactic shock from being pricked by its sharp leaf tips.”

Nature is full of creatures that are highly evolved to cause harm to others, but beautiful nevertheless — think of the majesty of a proud lion, or the silent efficiency of a great white shark. We might not like these creatures, but we inherently recognise their value and role in the world.

We should also remember, though, that even nature’s more minor annoyances have their place too, and can even be far more vital or impactful for local ecosystems. Spiny spinifex grass might annoy us when we walk through it, but hopping mice and mallee emu wrens use it as a “fortress of safety”, using it to forage and dine in peace from larger predators.

Similarly, everyone has their place, and virtually every negotiating style has a certain arena in which it shines. An especially prickly teammate might not be the right pick to wine and dine your clients, but you can be equally sure your clients won’t be able to flatter their way to a better deal through him.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to become better negotiators and versions of ourselves… but our biggest weaknesses often disguise powerful, symbiotic strengths, that we can try to maintain in the process.

With thanks to: The Conversation

2910, 2018

More Than Meets The Eye

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“Both sides had said they hoped to avoid a legal battle. Given that Samsung is one of Apple’s biggest suppliers, the companies had a strong incentive to move beyond their dispute and build on their ongoing partnership. Yet the two-day mediated talks between the CEOs in late May ended in impasse, with both sides refusing to back down from their arguments.”

The 2011 legal battle between Apple and Samsung just keeps on giving to those learning negotiation. Two key thoughts for today:

  1. If you asked 100 people about the relationship between Apple and Samsung, probably all 100 would describe them as technological competitors. This is certainly true, and yet Samsung is also a major supplier to Apple, and they have a vested interest in working together. Even seemingly clear-cut negotiations or relationships very often have more to them than meets the eye.
  2. Incredibly strong relationships and incentives to work together are still no guarantee that this will actually happen. The very natural need to ‘be right’, and to feel that you have stood up for your beliefs, can be just as powerful a force in the opposite direction.

With thanks to: Harvard Program on Negotiation

906, 2018

Don’t Be Bernie Sanders

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“Notably, Sanders has downplayed his willingness to compromise and accommodate. His gruff image is more in keeping with his portrayal of himself as someone bucking against Washington corruption and cronyism.”

Political candidates in head-to-head races often divide themselves into two categories: the “insiders” who can work across the bench and get things done, and the “outsiders” with a revolutionary plan to shake up the establishment.

Realistically, both compromise and resolution are necessary in any field — whether you’re representing millions or buying your first car. Great negotiators possess the flexibility and self-awareness to switch styles when necessary… regardless of what signals they try to send about their personality.

With thanks to: The Harvard Program on Negotiation

906, 2018

Bad Cop Donald

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“The world is getting a good look at the two faces of the Trump administration: One is that of a team of government officials working hard to find common ground with like-minded nations… while the other is that of a president who seems bent on taking a hammer to the whole process.”

Even world leaders aren’t above the occasional good cop, bad cop routine!

Whether you believe Trump’s unpredictability and antagonism are deliberate negotiating strategies or simply character flaws, one thing is certain — they give massive plausible deniability to US negotiators, who can safely push extreme requests under the guise of merely trying to satisfy a bad boss.

This can only ever be an opening move in negotiations with other world leaders, who have formed strong coalitions to resist this tactic, and likely even use the exact “good cop, bad cop” phrasing behind closed doors.

Pressure now falls on the US negotiators and Trump himself to find inroads past that blockade… albeit with the advantage of being the largest economy in the world, with a strong capacity to tempt G7 nations away from the coalition by making concessions on other issues.

With thanks to: NBC News

806, 2018

How China Frames Taiwan

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“Recent events might suggest that Beijing has the upper hand. Taiwan now has 18 diplomatic allies – the lowest number in its history.”

Applying pressure across the world, from Carribean weapons deals to local air travel… the Chinese government is ramping up its demands for powerful actors to withdraw diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as a rival government.

With the world’s most populous military and second-largest economy, why does China care so much about these semantics?

Very simply, framing matters.

Even as Taiwain flips the PRC’s game to strengthen ties with the US and Japan in response, the Politubro know that words have power. Unless you’re careful, the more media you consume that refers to Taiwan as China’s property, the more legitimate that belief will become, deep in your subconscious mind.

Even if international attitudes only shift to become 0.1% more favorable towards China as a result, that still translates into a huge number of policy decisions that will tip ever so slightly further in the PRC’s favor.

When the stakes are so high, any shift in perception can create a powerful opportunity or threat — or both. How can you frame yourself to influence how others treat you?

With thanks to: The Lowy Institute

806, 2018

Kim Jong-Un and Signalling

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“Even if it fails… meeting a serving US president would still be hugely beneficial to Pyongyang as a means of strengthening Kim’s domestic and international position…”

Not all negotiations are meant to succeed — and not every negotiator’s goal is to get the best deal possible from the person across the table. Savvy leaders also use negotiations to send signals, gather information, or provoke emotional reactions from third parties.

With thanks to: The Lowy Institute

806, 2018

Don’t Be Suprised

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“Spend at least twice as much time preparing… as you expect to spend at the table.”

The #1 emotional sign that a negotiation has gotten the best of you isn’t anger or disappointment — it’s surprise. Most people don’t behave erratically or without reason. They make the most rational decisions they can with the information available to them, and sometimes even signal their intentions beforehand.

If the success or failure of a negotiation is going to impact you for years to come (even if the deal is as small as choosing one used car over another), why wouldn’t you invest at least two hours of your time researching and preparing for the negotiation?

With thanks to: The Harvard Program on Negotiation

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