Deal World Rule #9 - Use A Knowledge Trap

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I once knocked my wife’s wedding ring down the drain in our kitchen sink. It could have turned ugly. Good thing sinks have traps.

Knowledge can also go down the drain if we’re not careful. We often hear, read, or see outstanding content, have “aha” moments only to later let these key learnings slip away, lost in the sands of time. That’s why we need a knowledge trap -- to prevent today’s takeaways from becoming tomorrow’s drainaways.

At the Studio, we review a ton of content every day. In order to preserve the important takeaways, we use a knowledge trap. The trap is sprung through 3 questions:
  1. What are the big ideas in this content?
  2. How do these ideas apply to my business (my life) to create ROI?
  3. What tools can be developed to utilize (i.e., use and teach) these ideas and their benefits?
We use the answers to these questions to draw a picture that captures the key learnings. (click here for an example).

This technique can take a large amount of content (e.g., an entire book), condense it down to its essence, and depict this in a picture that we can use over and over again to refresh it in our minds and for our clients.

Do you use knowledge traps? If so, congratulations. If not, start today.

Quick, call in the SWOT team!

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Most of the time, we are called upon to make reactive decisions with respect to most aspects of our lives. Whether it's slamming on the brakes because that guy doesn't know how to use a turn signal to change lanes or the 4 o'clock meeting is now at 2 o'clock and that 2 hour prep time you were counting on is now out the window.  Thankfully, there are plenty of times where we can take a little time to think strategically in order to make proactive decisions.

So, how do you go about being proactive? One of the tools we use that helps us start forming strategies is called SWOT analysis.  The great thing about SWOT is that it's a simple exercise that can help you to identify some key points within important categories - kind of like directed brainstorming!  Your focus is on 4 key areas of interest:
  1. Strengths - What do you do well?
  2. Weaknesses - Where do you struggle?
  3. Opportunities - What avenues are open to you?
  4. Threats - What circumstances exist that could derail you?
This simple exercise will, at the very least, get things flowing for you. By identifying these key areas of interest, you will have some fertile ground for being more proactive and less reactive!

Tapping The Power of Relationships Through Negotiation

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I imagine that you all have heard and read - to the point of cliché - that we all negotiate, to a greater or lesser degree, each day. What may fall by the wayside is the importance of relationships and the ways in which we leverage those relationships in our every day negotiations.

Thinking back to when I was a lot younger and a bit less responsible with my choices, my parents often leveraged our relationship to help me "see" that what I wanted to do and what I should do were two different things. While I don't recommend guilt-tripping your vendors or telling them that "you aren't upset, just disappointed" there are plenty of ways to leverage your relationships within the context of negotiation.

We are all going to have varying viewpoints with respect to what constitutes a "good" relationship with our negotiation counterparts.  In their book Getting Together - Building Relationships As We Negotiate, Roger Fisher & Scott Brown suggest that a good working relationship is one that can deal well with differences. We don't have to see eye-to-eye on every issue that crops up between us. In fact, if we did, there would be little need to negotiate in the first place. The important facet of the relationship is that we can work together to come up with creative solutions without wanting to gouge out the other person's eyes. Avoid sweeping disagreements under the rug, but at the same time be willing to use trade-offs to balance your competing substantive interests.

When someone says that they are "leveraging a relationship" this often has a negative connotation - something like a nice way of saying "I'm going to use them to achieve my ends." However, you can leverage relationships without damaging them.  Try some of these ideas from the Getting Together book:
  1. Be unconditionally constructive.  If your negotiation counterpart sees that you are consistently seeking to build rather than tear down, they will be encouraged in their efforts to help reach mutually beneficial solutions to do the same.
  2. Be wholly trustworthy, but not wholly trusting. Follow through is probably the most important way to establish and maintain a good working relationship. If you don't do what you say you will do, the other side looses incentive to perform. 
  3. Persuasion, Not Coercion. It is easy to feel hijacked when one side begins making demands on you in a "my way or the highway" manner. Seek to bring your counterpart around to your point of view rather than cramming it down their throats.
By utilizing these tips you will be able to maximize the value of your good working relationship!

Handling Awkward and Embarrassing Situations with Humor

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Here's a great story from our very own Kendra Richgels, who knows how to think on her feet given even the most unexpected surprises...enjoy!


It was mid-afternoon on the second day of an extremely difficult negotiation involving 20+ individuals.  Tensions were high and the mood was serious.

Suddenly, I received a note from my female negotiation partner.  “Do you have a sewing kit and do you know how to sew?”  I looked over and one of the buttons on her carefully selected new coat dress had fallen off from a key section of the dress.  Turns out the buttons were metal buttons and were slicing through the threads holding the buttons in place.

We had precious few hours left to complete the deal and were moving into a critical part of the day with a small group selected to complete the legal terms.  We had found the attorneys from the other party oblivious to our charm and were finding it tough to crack their serious and difficult nature.  Due to the timeframe, location and logistics, leaving for a wardrobe change was not an option.  We devised a workaround for this button without calling attention to the issue.  An hour or so later, a second button popped off.  No longer able to contain her laughter at the absurdity of the situation, my colleague burst into laughter, announcing to the tension filled room that she must apologize, but her dress was exploding. 

We all know that appearance in a negotiation is critical.  The right clothing goes a long way to setting the tone for the negotiation.  However, wardrobe malfunctions happen to everyone.  The exploding dress continued to lose buttons throughout the remainder of the long evening, a situation we handled with laughter and seeking assistance with the other part’s team to laughingly find alternative button holding solutions.  The humor of the situation connected the parties and continued to act as the spigot to release the tension built in a room.  The way we handled the situation exemplified exactly what we were looking to do in the negotiation - to improvise practically and creatively in the scene at hand.

The “Exploding Dress” story exemplifies how an absurd situation handled correctly can be turned into a positive outcome with the use of humor.  Often, the ability to use humor as a connector between the parties presents itself unexpectedly.  Having a responsive sense of humor in contentious settings weaves together laughing matters and deeply serious ones. 

Negotiation Strategies - Let The Mind Games Begin!

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You made it! You're here! Negotiation time baby! You put in the time to prepare, you've examined the situation from different perspectives and now it's time to meet with the other side and have all that hard work blown out of the water. Ok, not really, but another key point to keep in mind as you engage in negotiations is that there will be surprises and sometimes you may have to change your approach despite the hard work you put into preparing. With that, let's get down to the nitty gritty!

Of the many great things I've learned since I became a member of the WieseLaw Contract Studio, the most important thing is that taking some time to evaluate your strengths and then playing towards those strengths will net you exponential gains vs. incremental gains when you focus on "fixing" your weaknesses. The same holds true in negotiation and especially negotiation styles and strategies. Take some time evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to negotiation styles most people will settle into one of two camps: soft or hard. Within these two camps there are numerous strategies that can be used effectively regardless of where you stand.

A true "soft" negotiator isn't a meek, passive pushover. A soft negotiator is concerned with relationships and maintaining the peace throughout the negotiation process. A soft negotiator would rather persuade you to agree with them than to push a solution without consensus. Managing conflict is not exactly the forte of a soft negotiator, but collaboration is where they will shine.

A true "hard" negotiator isn't irrational or unwilling to examine different points of view. A hard negotiator views negotiation as a competition. This drives them to discover as much as they can about the situation and their negotiation partners. A hard negotiator drives a hard bargain, but they are well informed and expect to be rewarded for their hard work.

Negotiation strategies tend to revolve around these two basic polarities (and their many, many variants). It can be very tempting for a hard negotiator to stick to a positional bargaining strategy where they assume limited or fixed resources exist ensuring a "win-lose" outcome. Similarly, a soft negotiator may adopt an accommodating strategy in order to strengthen a relationship causing them to give in where they really aren't achieving their goals.

The key here is to work with your strengths to develop negotiation strategies that will lead to better agreements that will be more likely to be honored by all parties to the agreement.  William Hernandez Requejo and John L. Graham in their book,  Global Negotiation: The New Rules, have some great suggestions for doing this:
  1. Establish common goals of what this "collaboration" would create. A more workable deal? Some common long term goals? A closer partnership?
  2. Establish the rules of engagement. The purpose of the exercise is to resolve differences in creative ways that work better for both parties. All ideas are possibilities, and research shows that combining ideas from different cultures can result in better outcomes than those from a single culture.
  3. Trust is key, and difficult to establish in many cultures. Certain techniques might speed that process a little. Being offsite, for example. Establishing physical proximity that unconsciously signals intimacy.
  4. Add diversity (gender, culture, extroverts, different work specialties, experts, outsiders) to the group. Indeed, the diversity associated with international teams and alliances is the real goldmine of creativity in negotiations.
  5. Use storytelling. This both helps establish who you are and what point of view you are bringing to this collaboration.
  6. Work in small groups. Add physical movement. Tell the participants to relax, play, sing, have fun, and silence is ok.
  7. Work holistically and using visuals. If, for example, there are three sticking points where neither side is happy, agree to work on those points by spending a short time – 10 minutes – on each point where both sides offer "crazy" suggestions. Use techniques of improvisation. Neither side should be offended by the crazy ideas. No one should criticize. Explain that by exploring crazy ideas that better ideas are often generated.
  8. Sleep on it. This enables the unconscious to work on the problems, and gives negotiators time to collect opinions before meeting again the next day. Other kinds of breaks, coffee, etc. are also helpful. The overnight part is particularly important. 
  9. Doing this process over several sessions allows both sides to feel that progress is being made, and actually generates better and more polished ideas that both sides can invest in.
  10. It is the process of creating something together, rather than the specific proposals, which creates bonding around a shared task and establishes new ways of working together. Each side feels honored and all can feel that something is being accomplished.
We hope that taking time to evaluate your negotiation strengths and then playing to those strengths in a creative and thoughtful manner will help you achieve amazing results from your next negotiation. Keep at it and please feel free to share any experiences and stories you have with us.