It’s a Negotiation Jim, But Not As We know It.

Published: Mar 23 , 2012
Author: David Bannister

Many of us can recall with fondness the original television series of 'Star Trek'.

Captain James T Kirk of the 'Enterprise' navigated his ship and all aboard her through many episodes threatened by belligerent aliens and inhospitable far-off worlds. To boldly go. Not a bad ambition for those of us sent out to get better deals.

Kirk always had by his side his two close confidants and advisers: Commander Spock, a Vulcan committed to a philosophy of logic, and Dr. Leonard McCoy, a human driven by compassion and scientific curiosity. Both Spock and McCoy are frequently at odds with each other, recommending different courses of action and bringing very different types of arguments to bear in defence of those points of view. Kirk sometimes goes with one, or the other, and sometimes takes their advice as a springboard to developing an entirely different course of action.

However, the very fact that Kirk has advisers who have a different worldview not only from each other, but also from himself, is a clear demonstration of Kirk's self confidence. So it is with negotiators - less effective negotiators are prone to surrounding themselves with 'yes men' who are afraid to argue. That fosters an organisational culture that stifles creativity and innovation, especially when we are preparing for the negotiation, and leaves members of the organisation afraid to speak up. That can leave the organisation with insufficient reserves when a change in course of action may be needed and certainly means that it will never consider in full all the options which may be available both to itself and the other party due to the narrowness of its world view.

Organisations that allow for differences of opinion are better at developing innovation, better at solving problems, and better at avoiding group think - they are inherently better at fostering positive negotiating behaviour.

We all need a McCoy and a Spock in our lives and organisations. I wouldn't mind a transporter too!

David Bannister


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About the author:

David Bannister
My background is human resource consulting, I am a former KPMG consulting partner and head of global HR development with the firm. I began my interest in negotiating as an industrial relations specialist in the early part of my career and have spent many hours with trade union representatives practising what I now preach! I am also a coach and use these skills in my work with Scotwork’s clients.

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