Negotiation Blog - collaborative negotiations

Negotiation Blog

In Memory of John Nash

By Thomas Wood

I learned about the power of collaboration in negotiating from John Nash. The death of John Nash and is wife in an auto accident this weekend is tragic. He influenced my work with negotiators around the world, and we are forever grateful for his contributions.

John Nash (1928-2015) is widely known on several levels: he suffered from acute chronic paranoid schizophrenia; he was a genius in mathematics; and with other collaborators, won the Nobel prize in Economics in 1994 for their work on game theory. There was an Oscar winning 2001 film, "A Beautiful Mind" starring Russell Crowe as John Nash, loosely based on parts of his life, in which most of us probably got our first glimpse into his thinking -- into his beautiful mind.

Before Nash, most negotiations were focused on the deal – the outcome – the conditions. But Nash introduced an original idea that doing what is best for all parties can result in more value than in pursuing what is only best for each party. In essence, he proved with mathematics that focusing on Relationships allows us to achieve win-win results.

Are relationships new to win-win? No. Ancient cultures have valued relationships for thousands of years. What was new was that Nash came up with a way to represent win-win so that the results are predictable and repeatable.

If you try to maximize your gain, your personal outcome, you may get nothing. In the movie "Beautiful Mind," the character John Nash refers to the renowned economist, Adam Smith's theory: "Individual ambition serves the common good. Best result comes from everyone doing what’s best for himself."

Nash determined that Adam Smith's theory was incomplete. Instead, Nash showed that the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself/herself and for the group. If you pursue a result that benefits all – that’s win-win. And how do you get there?  – by developing trusting relationships, collaborating on ideas, and addressing parties' interests.

Many news organizations, colleagues and individuals have left tributes to show appreciation for Nash's work in mathematics, economics, and bargaining. Actor Russell Crowe and Director Ron Howard tweeted their respects. One person who says he spent an afternoon with Nash commented that Nash taught him that "brilliant ideas are not the exclusive domain of people with great minds."

This is what we teach: brilliant ideas are those that solve ordinary problems, and those creative solutions come from the parties collaborating on how to bring value to each party and to the group.

I would have loved a chance to talk with John Nash.​

Negotiating Tip

Believe in win-win, mutual gain. Win-win is an attitude, not an outcome.

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Negotiation Blog

Happy People Make Better Negotiators

By Marianne Eby

Inc. magazine contributor Jeff Haden gives us a list of “10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now”  to be happier. We couldn’t help but point out that if you subtract these 10 things from your negotiations, too, you’ll be happier AND a better negotiator.

Haden's top 10 subtractions on the road to happiness are no-brainers to master negotiators, so we wanted to highlight the biggies from a negotiator’s perspective:

1. Blaming - Take responsibility for your part. If your customer hasn’t kept up with its volume commitment, ask yourself – did you set the bar too high, have you trained their users on your service, what part of this is yours?

2. Impressing – It’s important to sell value – yours, your company’s, your product and service. But if all you do is promote you and yours, you will miss the golden opportunity to learn about your counterpart.

3. Interrupting – Even new negotiators know to ask a lot of questions, but it doesn’t pay off if you interrupt the answers. And fake listening doesn’t count – master negotiators listen with sincere curiosity!

4. Controlling – Even when you have all the power, trying to control the outcome of negotiations is counter-productive. Controlling the discussion or outcome ensures that you will miss opportunities to talk, to find hidden value for both parties, and thereby create a sustainable and viable agreement.

5. Dwelling – Haden tells us “the past is just training.” Negotiators, even the best, make mistakes. They do their homework and they diligently follow the best practices, but to get the best deal they are creative risk takers. Asking questions has risks. Suggesting options has risks. Showing your cards has risks. And with the risks come some mistakes. But master negotiators don’t dwell; they turn mistakes into lessons.

6. Fearing - For negotiators, fear is what keeps us from asking for what we want, the nail in the coffin for achieving a beneficial agreement. Think of the "big ask" as a way to start the conversation. If your request is defensible, then you can confidently ask for it.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate for what you want! You’ll be happier, build stronger relationships, and achieve mutually beneficial agreements.

Negotiating Tip

Summarize early and often.

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