Monthly Archives: January 2014

Smart Negotiators Master Skills NOT Tools

The Smart Negotiator!® class focuses on skill development through real life problem-based exercises. The goal is to change the way the participants “think” about the negotiation process and to rely more on skill rather than on tools.  It sounds so simple and almost benign but at the end of the day it is the “mind-set” of the negotiator that will produce a high quality deal. Through the years I have delivered my course to countless procurement and sourcing professionals, contract & subcontracts personnel and program managers.  It has been my experience that most of these people when trained are taught investigative and organizational skills rather than negotiation skills. The fatal flaw is the underlying premise that information & knowledge is power and if you collect more than the other party you win! Consequently, when training new professionals for these roles the emphasis is placed upon the mastery of tools such as excel spread sheets, power point, internet programs and company templates designed to ease the task of gathering & organizing information to support a position.  However, all it really produces is well-informed knowledgeable people who rely primarily on information and don’t have the skills developed to create a high quality deal.

We Shape Our Tools and Then Our Tools Shape Us

Enter Marshall McLuhan or should I say Nostradamus because all of his predictions had come to pass. McLuhan was a Professor at the University of Toronto who served as the Director of The Center for Culture and Technology through the 1960’s and 1970’s. During this time he published several books including: The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects and Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In his works he argued that everything that we create is an extension of man. The wheel is an extension of the foot, the computer is an extension of the brain and so on.  Although these technological advancements are useful and help us with a variety of tasks they are not free. Each technological advancement comes with a very distinct human and cultural price.  Hence he credited the invention of the printing press with the destruction of our memory. He argued that “we shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

For the Smart Negotiator the conversation has now come full circle. Examine the “tools” that corporations provide program managers, sourcing, contract & subcontracts personnel and address the question: how have these tools shaped the way they “think” and “see” the negotiation process?  You would have a hard time denying the fact that the tools of today contribute to the collect-organize-compare (analyze)-select mind-set. As a result, many deals can be merely selected rather than created through the artful skill of a negotiator. Therefore, the price that we pay is not only a reduction in the quality of deals but more importantly a new normal is created in acceptable behavior during the negotiation process.

Yes Professor McLuhan our tools do shape us but they should not control us.  The successful contemporary negotiator will take advantage of the tools made available through the advancement in technology while concurrently developing their skills. The point is to “use” the tools and “master” the negotiation skills.

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The Smart Negotiator’s formula for success: 10 lbs. of data = ZERO oz. of skill

Finally a note to the reader. For a maximum learning experience I suggest that this article be read a second time with Zager & Evans blasting In the Year 2525 from You Tube. Cue the music. “In the year 2525 if man is still alive..”

 


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