Problem Solving with Creativity

What You'll Learn
  • Creativity will supercharge a win-win negotiation
  • Creativity is critical in the Exchange and Bargaining stages
  • Low cost high value concessions address interests
  • Low cost high value concessions are described as creative concessions and painless concessions

We are born creative.

Infants design sounds and even words to make their needs known.

As young children we talk with imaginary friends and create entire environments with make-believe characters, surroundings and events.

The more kids explore the world around them they see possibilities and ask questions that amaze adults: Why don't the fish talk? When humans are extinct who will come next? If numbers go to infinity, is there also an infinite amount of candy? Do dogs know they are dogs?

Next kids pose solutions: Let's build bridges between houses so kids don't have to walk in the street to visit their friends. If we freed all the gorillas in the zoos then there would be more gorillas in the wild again. Send children to war instead of adults and they would play rather than fight and nobody would get hurt.

But before you know it children learn how to write, and do math, and read, and become rational and sensible. A block against creativity creeps in and takes over.

When did we stop being creative?

Percentage of highly creative people at:
Age 5 98%
Age 10 10%
Age 22, 32, and 42 2%

We must relearn to be creative.

Creativity is the element of brainpower that will supercharge a win-win negotiation. It is a critical factor in both the Exchange and Bargain Stages. In Exchange we use creativity to discover value and in Bargaining to create value.

Use creativity in Exchange Stage to discover value: Use creativity in Bargain Stage to create value:
Build trust so that interests are revealed. Probe.
Learn about the other side’s business, concerns, challenges and interests. Be prepared to give – to concede painless concessions.
Stand in their shoes. Take the difficult but critical look at the situation totally from the other party’s unique perspective. Link low cost concessions to the other side’s high value interests to create options for mutual gain.
Probe. Manage your concessions.

What is a creative concession?

  • A creative concession is any concession that has a relatively low cost to one side but relatively high value to the other side.

Creative concessions are low cost opportunities and are considered painless. They address interests and needs, not positions and demands. Creative concessions differ in each situation and are not typically transferable from one negotiation to the next. Introducing new, creative items into negotiations can often help you get off an impasse and avoid a deadlock.


  • A key driver to reaching mutually beneficial outcomes is to maintain an environment conducive to creativity. It is the use of the BNPs that prepares and maintains this creative environment: being well prepared, building rapport and trust at the outset, thinking big, challenging first offers, using the "Negotiated Yes", having ready Probes and keeping things positive.

Think back to a recent negotiating situation and reassess how well you did with creative concessions. What creative concessions were used? What creative concessions could have been used if you had thought more about it?