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Published: Dec 07 , 2017
Author: John McMillan

Two’s company; 27’s a crowd. It may be tricky negotiating with a single party, but when there are 27 divergent interests on the other side of the table it becomes even harder. That is just part of the challenge that the UK Government has in their Brexit negotiations. In most negotiations the negotiator is not negotiating for their own benefit; they almost always represent a coalition of interests. If that coalition is united in its mandate to the negotiator, then she or he may have very little room to manoeuvre. Any concession beyond the mandate will have to go back to the coalition for approval. However, if there is disunity amongst the coalition then the negotiator’s ability to make a deal is fatally flawed...

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Published: Nov 30 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

The announcement of the right royal wedding earlier this week coincides with the end of the preliminary Brexit negotiations, hopefully, which will be concluded by the start of the European Council meeting in December. I thought it might be fun for interested negotiators to consider the real meaning of some of the most common jargon we have heard from both sides of the EU table in terms of marriage and divorce. We start with Brexit means Brexit which is as meaningful as saying that Marriage means Divorce, although amazingly in EU-speak that is exactly...

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Published: Nov 23 , 2017
Author: John McMillan

A characteristic of business in the UK in recent years, and I suspect in other countries, is the removal of people from the interface between buyer and seller. In the place of the traditional face-to-face meeting is the RFI, the RFP and the E-auction. Indeed, some companies bar any direct communication between the department which has the need and the potential suppliers. As a senior buyer once...

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Published: Nov 16 , 2017
Author: 

This blog is a tribute to Orri Vigfússon, founder and Chairman of North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF), who sadly passed away in July. A champion and defender of the ‘King of Fish’, Orri was a visionary and selfless hero who dedicated his life and considerable personal means to reverse the decline in wild Atlantic salmon populations. For readers not familiar with the Atlantic salmon’s plight, the game-changing discovery in the 1950s and ‘60s of the salmon feeding grounds off the coasts of Greenland and the Faroe Islands led to large numbers of drift net and long line operations being set up which, combined with all forms of estuarial netting, led to the near collapse of salmon populations by the 1980s*.

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Published: Oct 26 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

Since becoming a Scotwork consultant eight years ago, I have noticed a dramatic change in people’s behaviour; and it’s not just happening here at home – it’s a worldwide phenomenon. My grandmother (God bless her) would have thought we had all gone mad, walking around with white things in our ears talking, apparently, to ourselves. Now and in addition, with smartphones enabling us to text, Facebook and WhatsApp as well as just talk, more and more of us are reading our mobile phones as we walk. My youngest daughter (17) never...

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Published: Oct 19 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

An interesting take on ‘bridging the gap’ came to my attention this week. The story has to be told anonymously because of client confidentiality, but the essence was a dispute over the amount of a pay-out between an insurance syndicate and a business owner after the business premises were destroyed by fire. Some of the facts surrounding the fire had made the insurers suspicious, although there was no hard evidence of fraud. Nevertheless, the insurers were reluctant to settle the claim which was close to €10 million,...

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Published: Sep 28 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

I have always been fairly skeptical of the “Happy Clappy” types who say that a positive outlook is the key to a great life. The reality is that sometimes s@#t happens and it is right to be fed up. A friend of mine...

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Published: Sep 14 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

At about the same time as this blog is being published we are hosting a webinar entitled ‘Negotiating in Uncertain Times’. If you missed it, a recording is available here. During the sign-up process we asked participants if uncertainty was affecting their business. Most of the audience didn’t comment; I suppose their interest in attending the webinar with its very transparent title was evidence enough of the problem. Those who did comment made some interesting observations. The most common sentiment was that ‘business unusual is the new normal’,...

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Published: Sep 07 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

You may remember, or have kids that do, the magnificent game Top Trumps. It was a card game popular with kids’ in the 1970s and 1980s, especially amongst pre-teens, for whom it was a widespread playground pastime. The subjects covered included military hardware, modes of transport, racing cars and predators. The packs of cards tended to be priced so that children could collect out of their pocket money. They also played to kid’s fascination with competition. My own son was particularly fascinated with the predator cards. One memorable imagined battle was who would win in a fight between a shark and a tiger...

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Published: Feb 09 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

It was in 1996 that Deep Blue, an IBM chess computer first beat the best human chess player, Garry Kasparov, becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and demanded a rematch. IBM refused and retired Deep Blue...

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Published: Jan 12 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

I was thinking, as one is tended to do, over the January period, of any goals I could do with having as we waltz into 2017. Eat well, exercise regularly, spend more time on my relationships are my clear life goals. Frankly ones that we all probably share. But from a negotiation perspective, which after all is what I teach and consult in for a living, what three things would help people less focused on this area than I, make a distinct and significant improvement in their negotiation outcomes...

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Published: Dec 15 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

You know, it’s not all sweetness and light in Lapland. People think (and to be fair, why shouldn’t they?), that all the work takes place on 24th December. Santa gets on his sledge and travels the world distributing largesse hither and thither. No one ever asks though what happens for the rest of the year. What – do they think that this mammoth distribution happens by magic? Well, I’ll admit that there is a bit of the magical and mystical about the whole operation; the reindeer-drawn sledge, for example, is a bit of a mystery, but for the rest – well, we’re talking slickness and speed and management of change and… But I’m ahead of myself...

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Published: Dec 01 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

In our contemporary world of hyper-uncertainty, where we are being constantly surprised (and often upset) by unexpected outcomes, data would appear to be our friend. The more information we collect and interpret, the better we can analyse the past and the more certain we can be of the future. Data reduces uncertainty. Not.

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Published: Nov 03 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

Complicated negotiations often involve different meetings, different personnel, different issues and, in the case of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, different countries! The key word in this kind of negotiation is alignment and that involves a number of different factors and considerations. We can learn from the insect world; think bees! Perhaps first and foremost, there needs to be a central “go-to” point where all the information and meeting notes are collated and stored. It is vital to have a central hive of information that teams preparing for a new round of negotiation can reference. The old phrase, “singing off the same hymn sheet” has a certain resonance in this regard. The workers need a point of reference...

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Published: Oct 27 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

What do Joni Mitchell and Boris Johnston have in common? Well very little I suspect, but they do both share an interesting way of looking at issues before finally making up their minds. “Both Sides Now” is one of Joni Mitchells most famous songs and appeared on her 1969 Album, Clouds. She says that she has investigated life, love and clouds from both sides, the inspiration being that she was on a transatlantic flight and looked down on the clouds rather than the more customary up. Boris Johnson was quoted in the press this weekend of having a similar way of making up his mind when considering his view of whether to support Britain’s In or Out vote over the now decided Brexit.

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Published: Oct 20 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

This isn’t going to be popular; to write it – even to think it - sticks in my throat as it offends against my innate sense of fair play and good will to all people, but there really are times when I want to take our elected representatives to one side and slap them about the face. They pontificate and they grandstand; they puff themselves up into rice krispies of righteous indignation; they adopt their “holier than thou” positions; they occasionally demonstrate a frightening lack of common sense and commercial nous and, at the same time, they would have us weaken our position in future negotiations.

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Published: Oct 13 , 2016
Author: Rafael Castellanos and Silvio Escudero

A couple of weeks ago we were surprised by the results of the “referendum” in Colombia. Colombians faced this question: “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and build a long-lasting and stable peace?”. This question referred to the agreement reached by the Colombian Government and FARC (oldest guerrilla group in the country). It was an agreement to put an end to a 52-years conflict that brought to the country thousands of casualties and displaced people, not to mention the impact of this conflict in the social and economic development of the country for decades....

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Published: Oct 06 , 2016
Author: Yannis Dimarakis

By November 9th, we will probably know the name of the next president of the USA. As the polls are not decisive, the statistical probability of Trump winning, is a real one. The negotiating profile of incumbent American presidents is instrumental to the behavior of “the country with the greatest influence on the planet”, on a range of issues, ranging from global challenges like climate change, to regional trouble spots like Syria, North Korea etc...

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Published: Sep 29 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Tomorrow I have an appointment at the dentist. I can state with pretty much certainty and I admit comfort, that he knows something about teeth. Partly because the last time I went to see him with a damaged filling I left with it fixed, which frankly it would be difficult for someone without any knowledge of teeth to have resolved. Unless of course he had been very lucky that day and managed to wing it...

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Published: Sep 22 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

News of Brangelina’s intention to divorce arriving on the same day as the critical acclaim given to the new Channel 4 drama National Treasure about celebrity sexual malpractice gave rise to a dinner table conversation about our capability to correctly read peoples’ underlying personality. We all recognise that in the febrile atmosphere inhabited by A, B, C, and Z listers the norms of society tend to be warped; they and we believe that they are more prone to accusations of bribery, corruption, to divorce and adultery. But in terms of the individual celebrity how good is our instinctive sniff-test. When we first hear bombshell news about a famous person is our reaction ‘Yes, not surprised, I knew that was a likely scenario’, or ‘No, I would never have thought them capable of that’...

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Published: Sep 15 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

“No” has emerged as an early contender for the least popular word in the English language, as Oxford Dictionaries ran a global search to find the least favourite English word. Starting what it hoped will be the largest global survey into people’s language gripes, the dictionary publisher was inviting English speakers all over the world to answer a range of language questions under the One Word Initiative starting with the quest to find the least popular English word.

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Published: Sep 01 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

August 31st: The End of the Silly Season. The UK, against all the odds, voted to leave the EU. In the USA Donald Trump survived despite chronic foot-in-mouth disease. In Rio the Russian Olympic team appeared phoenix-like to take part despite a ban as punishment for institutionalised drug taking. In France a truck became a terror weapon and modest Muslim women were hassled on beaches as a result. In Germany 28,000 workers were laid off by VW because a dispute with a Bosnian seat cover supplier escalated and the supplier stopped delivering. And celebrity magazines around the world announced that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant...

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Published: Aug 25 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Team GB flew in to Heathrow on Tuesday morning this week, clanking with their scores of medals, on flight number BA2016, a British Airways 747 repainted with a golden nose and renamed “victoRIOus”. The best Olympic results for these Glorious Isles in over a century. To come second in the medals table is brilliant, but to be honest should not come as such a big surprise as it clearly has. I wonder if that gob-smacking surprise is just a function of typical British pessimism; we love an underdog, or understatement and one of the worst insults you can make in the UK is to tell someone they think a lot of themselves. Jason Kenny is such a dude precisely because he seems not to want to be one...

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Published: Aug 18 , 2016
Author: Sam Macbeth

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal headlines “Apple’s Hard-Charging Tactics Hurt TV Expansion - In search of its new big thing, possibly TV, Apple has alienated cable providers and networks with an assertive negotiating style; ‘time is on my side’" they are saying Apparently, they’ve been in discussions with various potential media partners since 2009, with no end in sight. During this period, Apple’s demands have included things such as long term frozen monthly rate per viewer, access to selected premium channels, full ‘on demand’ seasons of hit shows, rights to a vast cloud based digital video recorder, and set top box Apple ID sign in. They haven’t quite asked for the kitchen sink yet.

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Published: Aug 04 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

There is a big debate going on at the moment in the UK – and especially in Scotland about the renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. Perhaps some background might explain where we are as things stand right now. The second generation of the UK’s nuclear armed, submarine-based deterrent is in mid-life and decisions have to be made now to replace the Trident fleet of four submarines. It is in the nature of the size of the UK’s fleet that these boats are replaced all at the one time (spread over three or four years, of course) rather than the rolling programme in the USA, for example. The debate comes to a head every twenty to twenty-five years and, as you can imagine, passions run high on both sides of what is, in essence, a binary discussion – you are either “for it” or you are “against it”. There are no half measures...

Published: Jul 28 , 2016
Author: John McMillan

Over the last 40 years I have observed more than 5,000 hours of negotiation in over 30 countries and that has taught me the about the good negotiating behaviour that causes negotiations to succeed. For the purpose of this blog I shall limit myself to the top five and see how many of these might be present in the UK’s attempt to extricate itself from its 43-year relationship with the European Union...

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Published: Jul 21 , 2016
Author: Richard Savage

I was rather intrigued by a restaurant in North London, which I heard about recently. Mostly because some friends of mine, who were recommending it, were particularly excited about the fact that it was ‘all you can eat’. Now I don’t know about you, but ‘all you can eat’ in my book reminds me of brightly lit windows promising more cholesterol and MSG than one thought possible or healthy. And indeed the preserve of worn out Leicester Square tourists and hungry students...

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Published: Jul 14 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

You really couldn’t make this up. Prior to the recent Brexit referendum, there was a negotiation between David Cameron, the UK prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister and current commissioner of the European Union. Cameron, a very bright man indeed but with limited negotiating experience, went into bat against Juncker, a very bright man indeed but with limited negotiating experience. Their careers had been remarkably similar – early days as parliamentary aides, followed in Cameron’s case with a stint in the commercial world working for Carlton Communications, followed by election to their respective countries’ parliaments. Juncker studied law but had never practised. Neither had much, if any exposure to the cut and thrust of commercial negotiation. I sometimes wish that our politicians had more such experience, but there we are...

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Published: Jul 07 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

The hunt for negotiators has begun on a Global scale. Offers of help from all over the place, New Zealand, Australia and no doubt every part of the Commonwealth and beyond to help the UK deal with the inevitable day to day transactional not to mention the framing and strategic negotiations that will result from the Brexit. Surely we are not that light on experience in highly complex, multi- partied negotiations that we have to import them from literally the other side of the world...

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Published: Jun 30 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

‘So what are you doing about Brexit’ demanded my 90-year-old Mum. ‘Why should I be doing anything about it?’ I asked. ‘Because every other sentence on the news channels since Friday morning has contained the word Negotiation’ she said. Point taken. Not only Teresa and Michael haggling about who should be the next Prime Minister, Tom Watson colluding with Angela Eagle to avoid being the next Leader of the Opposition, Nicola Sturgeon desperately searching for a negotiating partner in Brussels – anyone will do - but most importantly the UK Government-to-be negotiating the relationship between the UK and Europe with 27 other heads of state, once the exit process has been triggered.

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Published: Jun 23 , 2016
Author: David Bannister

I am writing this blog a mere two days after the UK was shocked at the news that a young female member of Parliament was murdered in a street in her constituency where she was born and brought up. Jo Cox was, everyone agrees, a principled and much loved and respected MP who represented a culturally diverse constituency where people of all religions and none are united in the grief and respect they have shown for her. Among the many tributes paid to her in the short time since her death, one has stuck in my mind. Jo Cox was a campaigner and activist previously employed by Oxfam where she had travelled to and worked extensively in many of the world’s major areas of conflict. She was a fearless campaigner on refugee issues...

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Published: Jun 16 , 2016
Author: Sebastian Bacewicz

It’s common knowledge that being rude to people may not be the best way of achieving what you want. In fact, the effect of being rude will mostly achieve the very opposite: if you're rude to somebody, they're more than likely going to be rude right back to you, and certainly less likely to give you what you want. A resulting vicious circle of rudeness ensues, and a bad deal - or no deal at all – achieved in the end. New research conducted by the University of Florida suggests that an initial act of rudeness can cause a ripple effect where people who experienced rudeness are then more likely to be rude to other people, who then will be rude to others. In other words, rudeness can spread in a similar way to a virus...

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Published: Jun 09 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Been a very bad year for my heroes so far. The loss of David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Fry, Victoria Wood and now the sporting legend that was Muhammad Ali. Tragic. If you have not read the Fight by Norman Mailer, you should. The description of the legendary fight between Ali and George Foreman has to be one of the best books ever written about sport. Even for a non-fight-lover it is a brutal study of the pugilist’s skill. Mailer describes the dynamics of the battle in graphic detail comparing it to a chess match and to a piece of art.

Published: Jun 02 , 2016
Author: Sam Macbeth

Firstly apologies to the the 1980’s pop group Madness for the title of this blog. The Sun newspaper reported last week that “David Cameron finally manages to get a good deal – after negotiating a second-hand Nissan Micra for Samantha”. Apparently he drove this off the forecourt from the car dealer in his local constituency in Witney, Oxfordshire – very different from the public office £200K Jaguar which he rides in for work...

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Published: May 26 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

I do not suppose that there is a perfect way of sacking someone. It is never nice and never easy – either for the manager doing the deed or indeed the victim. Neither, I suppose, is there is a perfect way of doing it badly, but if there is, then surely Manchester United plc has come pretty close in their handling of Louis van Gaal’s dismissal earlier this week. You could not have made it up as speculation mounted that Jose Mourinho, the self-styled “special one” was set to be named as van Gaal’s successor...

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Published: May 12 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

The fathers of Scottish devolution came up with a system so complicated as to confuse even the most passionate observer and student of the political scene north of the border. There were three guiding principles • To preserve the best of the Westminster “first past the post” system, which provides a clear result and a named MP for a constituency • To ensure that those who voted for a party other than the winning party still had a chance or representation in the parliament (there is a second vote for list MPs in each constituency) • To make an overall majority government a rare occurrence – and it is this requirement that has caused the hideous complication!

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Published: May 05 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Just about a year ago, as voting in the UK General Election came to an end, an exit poll predicted that the Conservative Party would win a 10 seat majority. This was so out of whack with the estimates made by all the opinion poll experts that Paddy Ashdown, a well-known and well respected Liberal Democrat politician promised on TV that if the exit poll prediction was right he would literally eat his hat. The prediction turned out to be correct...

Published: Apr 28 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

I am sitting by the hospital bedside of an elderly relative who fell last week and broke her hip. It is Tuesday, the first day of this week’s junior doctor’s strike. The ward is functioning normally as far as I can see; there is a normal complement of doctors on duty, but unusually there are also groups of more senior consultants who appear to be hunting in packs of 3 or 4, perhaps for safety. There was no picket line when I came into the hospital and it was as difficult to find a car parking space today as it has been all week which suggests that most outpatient appointments are proceeding as usual...

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Published: Apr 21 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

When I tell people what I do for a living, lots of people are intrigued, often they don’t really get what it is. I like to tell them that negotiation is the art of getting more of what you want, that seems to intrigue them more. Hopefully that turns into a business opportunity, tart that I am. Many others are appalled and feel intense sympathy for those around me and particularly my family and friends. But all of them think how exhausting and time consuming it must be to be constantly looking to negotiate a better deal in every relationship all of the time...

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Published: Apr 14 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Confidence is one of the important attributes of a good negotiator. Many HR recruiters believe that this is an attribute they need to look for in those who will be conducting negotiations for the organisation (sales, marketing, procurement, Board level), so that testing for confidence as a personality trait is therefore very important I might be splitting hairs but I would like to suggest that although self-confidence is important to good negotiated outcomes it is much more important to successful persuasion. Why is this important? – because when a persuasive argument succeeds then the need to trade or compromise is reduced or eliminated...

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Published: Mar 31 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

The great thing about negotiating is that it enables people – often from diverse backgrounds and polarised positions – to come together and strike deals to the long-term benefit of both parties. You do not have to agree to do business or sign treaties. The whole process of trading enables participants to park their differences for the greater good. The funny thing is that negotiation often follows on from a period of conflict, the resolution of which has failed by using other methods of conflict resolution. When the Great War ended in 1918, the victorious side imposed such draconian terms on the losing side that many believe that the Second World War was merely a continuation of the first. In that case, the victors imposed their will (as was their right as they saw it as the winners) to the detriment of long-term peace...

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Published: Mar 10 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

A BBC reporter recently went to the Island of Lewis, part of the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, to gauge reaction to the increasing likelihood that Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate. Donald Trump’s mother comes from Lewis; he is so to speak one of theirs. The journalist found that the islanders were less than enthusiastic about him...

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Published: Mar 03 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

When are you at your most creative? It is a question I often ask in the classroom when I am running negotiation skills development classes. Two retorts I often hear are: “Why?” (people are reluctant to answer unless they know why I want to know, cynical bunch) or “When I am under extreme pressure.” Let’s look at these one by one...

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Published: Feb 25 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

We have a problem with my mother. She is a gregarious 90 year old, has successfully lived on her own since my Dad died 10 years ago, she is full of life and bright as a button, lots of friends, goes out to play cards five times a week. Until three weeks ago. Her arthritic knees gave up, and she became virtually immobile. She can hobble around her small apartment with the aid of a 3-wheeled ‘walker’, but the stairs are impossible, and she lives one floor up in a building without an elevator. She has become housebound. So she and the family have some decisions to make. Do we try to find a ground floor flat, which would allow her to go out, at least as far as a taxi which could take her to her friends and the shops? Should we aim for a warden assisted flat, where there would be a speedy rescue service if she fell over. Or should we find a residential care home where she could make new friends and spend the rest of her life (and we hope it will be a long one) being looked after...

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Published: Feb 18 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

It’s not that David Cameron does not have his troubles to seek as he shuttles around Europe trying to secure support for a modified agreement with the UK’s fellow European Union member states, but I bet you he wishes he had not been quite so cavalier as to promise an “in-out referendum” in the period leading up to the 2015 UK general election. Politically, he felt that he had to do it to give some kind of sop to the so-called “Euro-sceptic” wing of the Conservative Party and to prevent further haemorrhaging of potential supporters to UKIP...

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Published: Feb 05 , 2016
Author: David Bannister

A few years ago I read an interesting article based on the work of a renowned US business school which gave the results of studies into acquisitions and mergers in international business over a period of years. The conclusion, briefly summarised, was that what these deals produced in practice was a long way short of what had been predicted for them at the outset – fewer than a third of deals met the expectations which had been heralded for them when they were being contemplated and shareholders were being convinced to endorse them. It is interesting that some of Scotwork’s emerging research into negotiating behaviours (we will be saying more about this in the months to come) indicates that untrained negotiators don’t see the negotiating process as adding a great deal of long term business value or as strengthening relationships. It seems the process is just a necessary evil to many who have to carry it out. Trained negotiators, however, seem to have a different view...

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Published: Jan 21 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

The ability to negotiate through conflict is obviously critical within any organisation, regardless of which side of the fence they happen to sit, and in reality most of us sit on both sides of the fence in the different situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes we are buying, other times we are selling. Often we are managing others and maybe we are being managed. Point is we have to be able to handle all of the above...

Published: Jan 14 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

One of the defining qualities of a good negotiator is the ability to manufacture unusual tradeable variables apparently out of thin air. An example of this is how time is used as a variable. Most people would agree that a day comprises 24 hours. But management consultants know that a day in terms of charging fees is more likely to be 7 hours, so clients who need more than 7 hours find themselves paying for more than a day. Car rental companies define a day as any period up to 24 hours, so clients who want less than that still have to pay for the full 24 hours. So a ‘usual’ day becomes subverted into an ‘unusual’ day with a little creative thinking

Published: Jan 07 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

It occurred to me. The most prominent current industrial dispute in England, between the Government and the Junior Doctors, might be an excellent vehicle to analyse how Millennials (defined typically as born after 1983) negotiate, and whether Millennial traits have impacted on the negotiations. For non-UK readers; ‘junior doctors’ includes doctors from the time they leave medical school to the time when they are appointed as ‘Consultants’, typically about 10 years later. There are about 55,000 of them, a very important component of the medical provision in England (the dispute does not affect doctors in Scotland or Wales). The dispute dates back to 2012, when the employers announced that they wanted to update the terms of employing junior doctors. Negotiations have been on and off since then, but on Monday they broke down and the doctor’s union (the BMA) announced strikes for later this month...

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Published: Dec 22 , 2015
Author: Simon Kelland

Most "negotiations" with retailers are simple haggles; you don't need to deal with them and they don't need to sell to you so it's simply a case of trying to get the maximum discount in a one off sale. Not a lot of skill needed to do haggle other than doing a bit of homework on the market so you know what a good price looks like, having the courage to propose the price you're prepared to pay and the fortitude to walk away if you can't get a deal (assuming you have the time and energy to go down the street to another retailer to do it all over again)...

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Published: Dec 17 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Is there a difference between telling lies or just being misleading? I guess lying, rather like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder. "I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again - I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Was this the most blatant lie in modern times? ...

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Published: Dec 10 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Recently the Sunday Times Travel section reported an unfortunate accident. A Mr Graham Davies booked a multi-flight trip from the UK to The Philippines. He used a travel agency called CheapOair; I think that was his first mistake. I mean, would you? It’s like enthusiastically calling Rubbish Plumbers Ltd to fix a leak, or Lackadaisical Accountants LLP to look after your tax affairs?...

Published: Dec 03 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

Here in the UK in the Autumn and the first part of Winter a televisual phenomenon hits our screens on a Saturday night. It’s called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or just ‘Strictly’ to the real addicts. A number of so-called celebrities are partnered with professional dancers and week by week they compete against each other in a knockout competition where viewers’ votes decide which contestant will be eliminated each week. Almost ten million eager followers tune in to this programme in the months it is on our televisions. I am not usually one of them but my wife is an aficionado. So I find other things to do when this programme is airing. Except for a little bit of the programme this year when Jane calls me and says: ‘Katie’s dancing!’. This refers to one of this year’s contestants, Katie Derham who I really want to win (and so do lots of others, some because she is partnered with a male dancer of great good humour and demeanour who has never managed to progress far in the contest)...

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Published: Nov 26 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

A short but important lesson in this week’s blog. The daughter of a friend of mine decided to buy a new fridge. One of those big American style jobbies with ice dispenser, flashing lights and a disco ball. I exaggerate a little (not that much to be honest), but you get the point. Her issue was what to do with the old one?

Published: Nov 19 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland and Stephen White

George Santanaya’s maxim that ‘those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them’ has a corollary. We should use the successes of the past and repeat our behaviour with the problems of today? In particular, can we replicate the negotiating behaviour which brought about the Irish peace agreement to effect a negotiated settlement in the Middle East, and stop the carnage of Paris on 13/11, perpetrated by ISIS?

Published: Nov 12 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

I wrote in this blog about three weeks ago about the commitment given by the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, to write to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, setting out the demands which the UK would make in its negotiations with the EU prior to a referendum of the British people some time before the end of 2017 which will decide if the UK remains a member of the EU. My blog concerned a draft letter published in the Daily Telegraph, one of our more serious newspapers, written by Eurosceptic MEP, Daniel Hannan. On 10 November, Mr Cameron wrote the letter to Donald Tusk anticipated by Hannan and published its contents. In brief summary they are:

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Published: Nov 05 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Am I reading this right? We're all getting fat because we eat too much and don't exercise enough. Right? Well, not if you look at the debate about fat versus sugar now playing out. For years it was thought fat was bad for you: it made you get fat, so low-fat food was good. But the 'fat is bad' dogma is being widely challenged. Carbohydrates, including sugar, are increasingly viewed as the evil, fattening, toxic ingredient. Avoid the fry up and you will be fine. But the trouble with fat in your food is that it makes it taste good and if you take it out you have to do something to make it palatable. Sugar...

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Published: Oct 29 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

It is fashionable for radicals to kick against the political establishment. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Marine Le Pen in France, Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Ben Carson in the US are symptomatic of a public disillusionment with the power-broking traditional ruling classes. Similarly it is fashionable for journalists to kick big business. Starbucks for avoiding tax, VW for tucking-up consumers, Tesco for manipulating their suppliers into unfavourable trade terms, and FIFA (yes, FIFA is first and foremost a business) for corrupt practices...

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Published: Oct 22 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

Daniel Hannan is a British Member of the European Parliament (MEP), an institution for which he seems to have little warmth (as do quite a number of other British MEPs). The UK has announced its intention to renegotiate the terms of its membership of the European Union (EU) and to put the issue to a referendum in the next couple of years. The tactics of all of this are of more than passing interest to a negotiator. So far, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, has made only relatively vague references to what issues will be on the agenda when he negotiates with his fellow leaders, some of whom have wasted no time to tell Cameron what they think will not be on the agenda. Those of us interested in the negotiating tactics might conclude (as I do) that not saying what you want is not a great starting point on the journey to getting what you want...

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Published: Oct 15 , 2015
Author: Tom Feinson

Tesco’s travails over the last few months are many and varied. Recently they topped a grocers code adjudicator list for supplier complaints an in a recent survey only Iceland received a lower score from its suppliers, it must be cold there. For those that operate in this environment I imagine that this comes as no surprise and to be honest in my experience Tesco are not markedly worse than any of the Big 4. They all appear to operate on the basis that they have all the power and they can break and fix supplier relationships at will but is the worm turning?

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Published: Oct 01 , 2015
Author: John McMillan

A story in the British press reads that oilfield services provider Halliburton has made an offer to swallow rival Baker Hughes for $35 billion; Schlumberger has weighed in on equipment maker Cameron International in a $14.8 billion deal. Companies that specialise in one part of the services market, for example offshore drilling, are in a difficult situation and are finding themselves squeezed by their customers to such an extent that, in order to survive, they are having to accept takeover deals from bigger rivals or risk going out of business; takeover deals that would not have been countenanced 18 months ago are suddenly now acceptable – even welcome...

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Published: Sep 24 , 2015
Author: Romana Henry

I go running regularly with a good friend and neighbour who happens to be a criminal defence lawyer. She is married to another lawyer who works in property and estate settlement etc. On our runs, we exchange tips and advice. She tells me how expensive it would be to divorce my husband, why I shouldn’t burn a red light and why helping my 17 year old daughter to obtain fake I.D. to get into pubs really isn’t a good idea. Why I really must make a will soon, when to put my house on the market and what home improvements not to bother with. In exchange I tell her how to get a better deal in her various negotiations and we regularly brain storm long lists of things which she would like to get in negotiations in exchange for things she knows she will have to concede. Quite a pair we are. Imagine how much faster we would run if we spoke less and breathed more....

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Published: Sep 17 , 2015
Author: Simon Letchford

In 1978, US President Jimmy Carter brokered the first peace agreement between Egypt and a free Jewish nation in over 2,000 years. If email had been widely available, do you think he could have used it to save everyone 13 days at Camp David? Many clients ask me whether they should negotiate by email, expecting me to say no. My answer is always the same – “Absolutely. Sometimes.” Here are some trade-offs to consider before you press SEND...

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Published: Sep 10 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Habits are one of the most useful things we can slip into. If we didn’t habitually do much of our daily lives we would simply be unable to deal with the sensory overload that modern life has become. Just imagine what a drag it would be if we had to consciously think about breathing, blinking, walking, how to make a cup of tea? Nothing would get done...

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Published: Sep 03 , 2015
Author: Stephen White and Alan Smith

Ever run out of petrol? Well it seems that more and more of us have. Last year over 800,000 motorists reportedly ran dry. Research shows the number running out of petrol or diesel has risen every year since 2011, when the figure was a third lower. Men made up most of the 827,000 who ignored or chanced their arm when the fuel warning light came on. Are we becoming more risk friendly, foolish or price sensitive? Short answer all 3

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Published: Aug 27 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

I was interested by a report I read on the NHS website on 21 August in which Public Health England published an “evidence review” about e-cigarettes, stating that they were 95% safer than cigarettes and that, further, they were an effective quitting aid for smokers. As a result of the review, e-cigarettes are to be licensed and regulated as an aid to quit smoking from 2016...

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Published: Aug 20 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

A few years ago I was talking to a guy at a dinner party and he, in the effort to engage in small talk, asked me what I did for a living. When I told him that I trained and consulted in the area of negotiation skills he was intrigued but also fairly dismissive. His view was that he never negotiated. He always got his own way by simply making an ultimatum. His view was that agreeing to negotiate was a sign of weakness and that when dealing with his suppliers he simply told them what they had to do and they did it, or he went elsewhere...

Published: Aug 13 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Last Wednesday evening was a bad time for two different groups of Londoners. At five o’clock the doors of several walk-in centres run by a high profile children’s charity called Kid’s Company closed for the last time, and thousands of children who depended on the charity for both physical and educational support were stranded. There had been suspicions about the financial affairs of this charity for some time – allegations that it was not well managed and that it was not in control of its finances. Central government was a major contributor and when the media picked up stories of financial irregularities they and other generous donors began to think twice about their funding. The final nail in the coffin came when allegations of sexual abuse of children on Kids Company premises were made; the privately donated money dried up completely, and because the charity had virtually no reserves it had to close. It is unlikely to re-open, at least in its present form. Just one hour later the iconic concertina gates at the entrance of many London tube stations were pulled closed because of a 24 hour strike called by the unions which serve the employees who work on the London Underground...

Published: Aug 06 , 2015
Author: Mike Freedman

I was recently invited to teach at a company that purchases the debts of financial institutions and then pursues the people that owe the money. This company buys the debts through a tender process and they then present the debtors with the facts about the law and the unpleasant consequences of non-payment. They called Scotwork because they wanted to improve their negotiations with debtors. They said that they were talking to a number of companies who had issued quotations to them for negotiation training. I told them as politely as possible that they were wasting their money...

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Published: Jul 30 , 2015
Author: Sam Macbeth

Although news of a pay differential between men and women doing the same or similar jobs is nothing new, recent studies suggest that even when women are on the employer’s side of a negotiation, men can feel more threatened by a female boss, and tend to negotiate using more extreme positions. In one survey, male and female college students at a U.S. university were asked to negotiate their salary at a new job in a computer exercise with a male or female hiring manager. Once they had, the participants were asked to guess words that appeared on a computer for a fraction of a second. Those who selected words such as "fear" or "risk" were judged to feel more threatened...

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Published: Jul 23 , 2015
Author: David Bannister

I was reading my newspaper recently and came across an article written by a woman journalist who was celebrating the demise of the, as she called it. ‘shiny suited car salesman’ whose sexist attitudes have apparently in the past been responsible for women being urged to do things like ‘discuss their purchases with the man of the house’ before making a decision. This article set out some, to me, quite eye-opening statistics for the UK market in new and ‘pre-owned’ (it’s what they call second hand here) cars. The internet has liberated people to change their purchasing habits when they buy a car. In the days before the internet dominated our buying approach, the average Briton buying a car made five visits to a dealership before making a purchase. Now, most of us do our research on line. You can choose your new car, sort out the finance for it and arrange the part exchange of your old car on line and even arrange delivery without setting eyes on a single shiny suit. Footfall in car dealerships in the UK has apparently fallen in the last few years from 30 million to an anticipated 15 million this year and a projected seven million in 2018. What a revolution! It is said that the second largest purchase we all make after a house is a car and we are moving to doing that without any human interaction – amazing! Or is it?...

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Published: Jul 16 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Two negotiated deals of historic significance. One between Greece and the EU/Eurozone, the other between Iran and the P5+1. Both are hailed as a victory for diplomacy. Both are rubbish. Both are being derided and disowned in all quarters. Both are disintegrating as the ink dries. What do we learn?...

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Published: Jul 09 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

A mate of mine recently visited New York on business and found himself with a spare half day or so, needing to be filled. It being February, the joys of Central Park were lost on him so, after a moment’s thought, he took himself off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there to see their collection of JMW Turner’s paintings in gallery 808. It’s on the second floor; a bit of a hike from the front door if we are going to be honest, but there we are. He’d seen the film (Mr Turner; worth a look if you haven’t seen it) and he was determined to see three of the great man’s paintings that hitherto had escaped his first-hand study...

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Published: Jul 02 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

It used to be that people had so much time on their hands that they were forever looking for things to do to fill it. When I talk about wrestling with an octopus I am talking literally, not making an oblique negotiating reference about dealing with slippery salesmen or procurement slight of (many) hands. Throughout time people have been looking for ways to occupy themselves. In the 18th century, for example, fox-tossing was a popular event in Poland, in fact at one prestigious event 687 foxes and an assortment of badgers, hares and wildcats were tossed into the air using slings. Sounds fun, not!...

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Published: Jun 25 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

In or Out – that’s the Negotiation. Now that the Conservative party has been re-elected, the UK will be subject to a referendum, this time about Europe and its continued membership of the European Union. As an aside, those of us who live in Scotland are now becoming a bit jaded with the whole “referendum thing”; they’re a bit like the old Glasgow Corporation 59 bus that I used to know and love – none for forty-odd years, then two in quick succession, but that’s nobody’s fault but ours, so we should not complain. All part of the democratic process, blah-di-blah...

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Published: Jun 18 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

How many deadlines have been and gone in the continuing saga of the economic chaos in Greece? I would suggest there have been so many that we no longer believe that any of them really mattered – or ever will matter in the future. The crescendo of press speculation in recent days indicates yet again that the media believes we might be getting close to a crisis point. That is because Greece has a large repayment of debt – a tidy €1.6 billion - to make to the International Monetary Fund by June 30th, and there isn’t that much in the Greek coffers, so there is a real possibility that Greece will default that day, triggering the much publicised exit of Greece from the Eurozone, commonly known as the Grexit. Add to this the fact that in recent days, talks between the various parties have all but broken down...

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Published: Jun 11 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

A woman tries to board an overcrowded bus at the bus depot. The passengers bar her way. She protests. ‘I must be allowed to get on this bus’ she says. ‘Why’, the other passengers reply. ‘What makes you so important that you should take priority over others who are already on the bus?’ ‘Because I’m the driver’ she says. Two weeks ago we saw Sepp Blatter exercising his rights as the ‘driver’ to stay on the bus, even though more and more of his fellow passengers were uncomfortable with his insistence to do so. Eventually the pressure got to him, and now the whole FIFA edifice is collapsing before our eyes....

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Published: Jun 04 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

A relatively small and parochial point this week, but it illustrates that opportunities to negotiate abound. A deal may just improve your position in any walk of life. I have been working in the US this week and flew into JFK on Monday with the intention of staying in Manhattan on Monday prior to starting work on Tuesday. I booked into a small hotel just off Broadway. Now, New York is 5 hours behind UK time so at around 9 pm (2 am on my body clock) I decided to turn in...

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Published: May 28 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

A friend of mine is a specialist clothes manufacturer – I do not want to say more than that for fear of identifying him - who, when he opened his factory thirty years ago, was fairly desperate to get one or two big clients to underwrite his business in the first few unsteady years. Fortunately for him, he found a few, one of whom was and is a well-known high street retailer in the UK. Now, this company has exacting standards. I used to be in the hotel business and I well remember that we hosted their annual staff dinner one year...

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Published: May 21 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

A recent article in the New York Times has some food for thought for wise negotiators. The authors pose this question – How do you motivate people to do the right thing when the ‘market’ doesn’t work? Their context is the chronic shortage of water in California. This has now become so bad that new mandatory water-reduction regulations came into effect on April 1st. Most of these appear to concern communal water usage such as sprinklers on golf courses and cemeteries, and the replacement of community lawns with grasses which are more resistant to drought conditions. Private citizens are encouraged to improve water retention methods through a rebate scheme on new garden watering equipment, and new homes are subject to stricter regulations...

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Published: May 14 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

The recent Argentinian film ‘Wild Tales’ is a compilation of six unrelated fictions about people in desperate situations. I would recommend it to anyone who likes entertaining storytelling, but one of the segments has particular interest for negotiators. The plot revolves around the wealthy father of a wayward teenager who takes the family BMW out for the night, gets drunk, and collides with a pregnant pedestrian in a hit-and-run incident. Mother and unborn child don’t survive. The teenager confesses to his parents, and the father together with the family lawyer hatch a plan. The gardener, a retainer of many years standing, is invited to take the rap by claiming to be the driver, and serve the prison sentence (expected to be an unrealistic 18 months) in return for $500,000, a sum beyond his dreams...

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Published: May 07 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

On the day this blog is published the population of the UK vote in elections for their next government. Opinion polls put the two main parties neck and neck, with neither commanding a strong enough following to win an outright majority. So the result is likely to be a minority government which will have to form a coalition or make deals with the handful of minor parties in order to be able to govern. Even if there is an outright majority for one party the margin will be so small that alliances will need to be forged for effective government to survive. Do we have a cadre of politicians who can rise to the challenge of creating these deals through effective and inspired negotiating?...

Published: Apr 30 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

There appears to be a new technique being banded about by politicians in the UK, no doubt encouraged by their spin doctors in the long run up to this May’s General election. This technique or tactic is called throwing a dead cat on the table. Now no need to get squeamish, the cat is not literally dead, nor has it really been thrown anywhere least especially on the table. The technique refers to a metaphorical cat not a real one...

Published: Apr 23 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

We are in political season, so I make no apology for another observation on the political landscape, from which the negotiator can learn so much. All three stories involve the SNP. Story 1. As the tension and torture of last year’s Scottish independence referendum fade away, the resurgent SNP wants to go again – perhaps as early as next year...

Published: Apr 16 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Questions, questions everywhere, and not an answer in sight. Asking good questions is productive, positive, creative, and can help get us what we want. Most people believe this to be true and yet often people do not ask enough questions. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that effective questioning requires to be combined with effective listening. Last week I was listening to Eric Pickles, the conservative MP being interviewed on Radio 4’s today programme...

Published: Apr 09 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Somewhat quietly last Thursday, several days after the expiry of an arbitrary deadline which had been set for the finalisation of a agreement on the future of Iran’s nuclear capability, a deal was announced. There was rejoicing on the streets of Teheran, ominous rumblings of discontent in Jerusalem and Riyadh, a touch of triumphalism in Washington, and near silence in London, Paris and Berlin. After all the conditioning we had received from the spokespeople and pundits it was probably impossible for there to have been any other outcome. So much ego had been invested on both sides of the table that to announce a failure or a deadlock would have shown up all the politicians involved as incompetent...

Published: Apr 02 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

A couple of weeks ago we asked readers to submit words (made up ones) and their definitions as part of a tongue in cheek exploration of a new vocabulary for the seasoned negotiator to describe behaviours, activities, tricks and techniques they have encountered whilst participating in the noble art of negotiation. Regular readers may recall that we suggested that linguists and philosophers recognize that language defines reality. The way we talk about a subject creates the landscape in which that subject lives. Just as we are often said to be what we eat, we are in many respects are what we say...

Published: Mar 26 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

This morning (Tuesday 24th March) the news is awash with the revelation that the British Prime Minister says that he will not serve a third term as the leader of the Conservative party, and therefore leader of the country, should they be re-elected, again and again. Now bearing in mind he has not won the next election it seems remarkably confident, or arrogant to think he could possibly win the one after...

Published: Mar 19 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

What price is cost control? There is a natural tendency for us all to be looking to drive down the cost of what we buy. We all do it. Even those of us who sell stuff, services or products for a living will need to buy, and the same is true for those who buy; they often have to sell, even if it just themselves to the man. But the problem of focusing exclusively on cost as an issue was brought home to me again when I glanced at the ingredients on my recently consumed, Bakewell Tart...

Published: Mar 12 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Driving to a meeting recently I was brought low by a radio programme about dementia. The story, told by her family and her medical team, was of the remainder of the life of a bubbly and vivacious woman who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 80. As her condition worsened she became increasingly uncommunicative and aggressive, and finally died some 13 years later. One element of the unfolding story was unusual. In middle age she had made a living will...

Published: Mar 05 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

It has been said that Inuit have more than 17 different words for snow. Why should this be? Anthropologists hold the view that the language we speak both affects and reflects our view of the world. The idea that Inuit have so many words for snow has given rise to the idea that they view snow very differently from people of other cultures...

Published: Feb 26 , 2015
Author: Yannis Dimarakis

Most of you have followed (to some extent at least) the negotiations between the recently elected Greek government and its European partners. Depending on his or her political persuasion, an observer may feel in a number of ways regarding the outcome. So was the agreement a huge success, or was it a full capitulation of the Greek government?...

Published: Feb 18 , 2015
Author: Yannis Dimarakis

As these lines are written, the negotiations between the Greek government and its Eurogroup partners are still under way. As the end result is not yet known (and probably will not be for some days) some mistakes of the Greek handling of the situation are already discernible. Here are three obvious mistakes I have selected to discuss in this article...

Published: Feb 12 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

A recent TV documentary (The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds) gave a fascinating insight into the way grown-ups work. The film makers fitted out a kindergarten classroom with hidden cameras, and then put a group of 4 year olds into the classroom to interact with each other, under the supervision of two expert teachers, and secretly watched by a group of child psychologists. Having identified some of the personality traits of the children, they were split into two groups and invited to build a pretend house out of cardboard boxes and then decorate it. The groups were pre-selected; one had the more dominant children in it, and one had the less dominant. They were told that the team which built the better house would be declared winners..

Published: Feb 05 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Get mad back? Not so sure. Couple of things have passed my desk this week that have prompted this blog. The first is something that happened to me on one of our Advancing Negotiation Skills courses. One of the participants was asking about how to deal with difficult people. I suspect we have all come across them in our lives be it work or personal. As usual to give myself time to ponder and consider a response, a kind of adjournment, I asked the rest of the group if they had any ideas...

Published: Jan 29 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

Well, the Greeks have finally gone and done it. At the weekend, they kicked out the conservative New Democracy party – the dominant force in the coalition led by the outgoing prime minister Antonis Samaras and instead voted in Alexis Tsipras’s radical left Syriza party. The rest of Europe has looked on askance; Greece has muscled her way onto the front pages of just about every serious newspaper in Europe; bankers and leaders Europe-wide have been keeping the Andrex puppy busy ever since the news came out...

Published: Jan 22 , 2015
Author: Robin Copland

Jim Murphy, the new leader of the Labour party in Scotland, was interviewed on the radio recently and the issue of unilateral nuclear disarmament was raised. By way of background, there has always been a body of opinion in the UK in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament, indeed, during the recent referendum debate in Scotland, the Scottish National Party, in favour of Scottish independence, insisted that, in the event that Scotland voted “Yes” for independence, she would become a “nuclear-free zone” as soon as possible...

Published: Jan 15 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

There is one group for whom cheaper oil is bad news — oil producers, who've been having an amazing run between a combination of higher prices and surging production. For the rest of us it may be pretty good news. For the negotiator there is certainly the potential of a discussion dependent on the relationship between the price of oil and that of your end products, and how you approach it will depend on which side of the fence you sit...

Published: Jan 08 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

I love Christmas, but I hate paying for it. Sadly as a father of 5, Christmas, whilst being a wonderful time is also a very expensive one. I am sure like everyone else I also get excited in the run up to the event and am seduced by those people in marketing (God bless them) to spend more than I want to on things no-one needs, to impress them and convince them that under this crusty exterior I am a nice bloke after all...

Published: Dec 11 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Who does the housework in your house? Seems this is a much bigger issue than you might think. Or maybe it is already a huge issue for you. I suspect it depends on who does it and whether you care. It certainly seems to cause significant conflict if the radio is to be believed. I have a confession to make. As someone who works a lot from home I find myself in an office in my garden with very little company apart from the radio. A guilty highlight (sometimes) is Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4... Remarkably there has been a controversial theme over the last few weeks focused exclusively on housework, and who does it...

Published: Dec 04 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

An American President (depending on your politics it could be any American President since Eisenhower) visits a class of 9 year-olds. The class is discussing the meaning of the word tragedy. The President asks ‘Can anyone give me an example of the word ‘tragedy’. Peter says ‘My friend ran into the road and was killed by a passing car – that is a tragedy’. ‘No’, says the President, ‘that is an accident’. Jane says ‘There is a chemical leak at a factory and 2500 people are killed – that is a tragedy’. ‘No’, says the President, ‘I would call that a devastating loss’. William says ‘The Presidential plane is blown out of the sky by a ground-to-air missile fired by a rogue American soldier, and you are on board – that would be a tragedy’...

Published: Nov 27 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

It is a very simple equation to look at how margin is impacted by the price a company charges for its products. Take a very easy example of a company whose P&L sheet looks like this; Sales - 100 Materials - 60 Labour - 20 Other - 10 Profit - 10 If this company has to respond to market forces and drop its sales prices by 5% and other costs remain the same the impact on profit is a dramatic 50%....

Published: Nov 13 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth lately amongst the chattering classes and politicians in the UK and, perhaps predictably as we move ever closer to what promises to be the strangest election in recent history, it concerns money and the European Union. Last month (October 2014), it was suddenly and rather breathlessly announced in banner headlines that Britain was going to be hit for a £1.7bn pound deficit bill from the EU. The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, immediately went to Defcon 12 and very publicly rebuked the EU for the procedure it had adopted in making the announcement, for the timing of the announcement and, not to put too fine a point on it, for the amount involved....

Published: Nov 06 , 2014
Author: Mike Freedman

Frequently people want to talk about their negotiating strategy. My immediate (if private) reaction to this is “oh dear!!” Negotiation is a means of dealing with conflict; it can be stressful. So, in preparation we tend to surround ourselves with all sorts of tools and defences that will make us feel more powerful or at least more comfortable. For example people like to play out their negotiation strategy before it happens. Their strategy involves a long storyboard, a sequence of exactly what they and the other side will say and do...

Published: Oct 30 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

There is a sweet story about a car mechanic who is fixing the engine of the car belonging to an eminent heart surgeon. The surgeon arrives in the repair shop whilst the job is still not quite completed. The mechanic calls the doctor over to have a look under the bonnet. “You and I do the same job, Doc. I opened the engine’s heart, took the valves out, I am repairing and replacing anything damaged and then I will put everything back together and when it is finished, it will work like new. Just like you do. So how come I earn £40,000 a year and you earn £400,000 a year?”...

Published: Oct 23 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

There are three things that stick out for me from the new series of The Apprentice. The first is that at 10 years old it remains remarkably good telly. The introduction of new tweaks and twists on a familiar format makes it essential viewing if you want to have something to say at the water cooler. Not many programs still pass that test...

Published: Oct 16 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

This week the 2014 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to Professor Jean Tirole for his writings on the regulation of large corporations. Professor Tirole made his reputation largely on his work about Game Theory; his book (with Drew Fudenberg) called Game Theory is not an easy read. Densely packed with mathematical equations the book tries to explain the behaviour of individuals in a market who make decisions based on their expectations of how their customers, suppliers and competitors are likely to react in the future. Even the first example in the book, which describes how a pie manufacturer would use Game Theory to choose how to set his prices in the market for one single day, would make most people’s head spin...

Published: Oct 09 , 2014
Author: Gaetan Pellerin

We’ve all been trained to hide our emotions in a business environment—especially during negotiation. Keep your emotions out of negotiations or the other side may crush you, right? Not exactly, because you can’t negotiate effectively as a detached robot. So how do you find the happy medium? Recognize that emotions—positive and negative—are totally normal during a negotiation. But we’re often so busy driving the conversation, persuading the other party and doing everything we can to close the deal, that in the moment, we lose touch with our emotions. Or we choose not to deal with them...

Published: Oct 02 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

What is the worst thing you can do when negotiating? Lots of things I guess but probably the most obvious one of all is a lack of preparation. Last year was the 30th anniversary of the bestselling book by Chris Ryan, Bravo, Two, Zero. I’ve got to be honest when it first came out I did not read it. I thought it would only be of interest to military types and frankly was a bit embarrassed to read it on the train or tube, which was my main reading time back then...

Published: Sep 25 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Imagine this scenario. You are driving through city streets as a passenger with a colleague at the wheel. He is driving faster than the speed limit, trying to get a meeting on time, and is involved in a minor accident; no one is hurt but the police are called. Passers-by who witnessed the event tell the police they think your colleague was speeding. He asks you to speak as a witness on his behalf; to testify that he wasn’t speeding. What would you do? The Universalist sees this problem in terms of the uniformity of the application of laws and regulations. The issues of loyalty and the attempt to be punctual for a meeting are irrelevant; if the law has been broken then the consequences should be suffered by all, notwithstanding special circumstances or relationships. The Particularist sees the same problem in terms of extenuating circumstances and relationships. No one got hurt, you know your colleague is usually a safe driver, being truthful may well affect the relationship with him and possibly impose a driving penalty on him as well....

Published: Sep 18 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Publishing this on the day the Scottish population votes on Independence, we are no different from any of the other pundits - unable to forecast the result. But we can forecast that whatever the result the Scottish people will lose their ability to function truly as a democracy. This is because whichever side has the majority the result will be extremely close – 51/49, or 52/48 or something similar. In practical terms therefore about half of the population will getting exactly what they don’t want...

Published: Sep 11 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

On 18 September voters in Scotland will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The final push for votes comes as a YouGov poll run by the Sunday Times suggested that, of those who have made up their mind, 51% planned to back independence, while 49% intended to vote no. Looks like the vote is going to go to the wire...

Published: Sep 04 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

I am a big fan of the Kindle. It is convenient, easy to read at night, can carry lots of product, etc., etc. But whilst I still also love books, the Kindle’s massive advantage is the price you pay and the ease by which you can get hold of pretty much any book in print at any time, provided you have internet access. Brilliant...

Published: Aug 28 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Just as they say that everyone remembers what they were doing when they heard that JFK had been assassinated, the same applies to 9/11. In my case I was in a Dixons electrical shop; I watched the second plane fly into the building on a wall of about 50 TVs which were on display for sale, all showing the identical picture. I commented on the devastating nature of the spectacle to the sales assistant who was completing my purchase. ‘It’s just TV’ he said, not recognising that the event was real. The result of that attack, the War on Terror and the subsequent events in Afghanistan and Iraq, continue to affect our daily lives...

Published: Aug 21 , 2014
Author: Tom Feinson

As ever it feels like little or no time has elapsed between the end of one season and the beginning of another. The World Cup serves to heighten those feelings, but here we are on the eve of new season, that blissful period where our hopes, dreams and aspirations are as yet undashed. The glorious “Transfer Window” (unless of course you are Southampton) enables teams to offload a dodgy left back or temperamental winger (should that be whinger) and land a top quality striker ‘Who is going to give us 30 goals a season’...

Published: Aug 07 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

Recently, I found myself in Cork in Ireland. Beautiful place and well worth a visit if you have never been. Its weather (we don’t have a climate in these parts; we just have the weather. Indeed, we spend a lot of time talking about the weather and if we didn’t have it to talk about, then this would a quiet place, let me assure you!) is balmy; never too hot and never too cold. For a man from northern climes it is well-nigh perfect; this does not mean to say though that, from time to time, it does not get hot, because believe me, it does and I happened upon one of the weeks in the year when it was hot, hot, hot...

Published: Jul 31 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

As I write, in Israel and Gaza the conflict continues, and two thousand miles away the aggression between those Ukrainians who want their country to face East, and those who want it to face West also continues. The collateral damage in both cases is tragic; men, women and children who have nothing to do with any political or ideological movement are killed and injured by rockets and tank shells which are aimed indiscriminately at population centres, or which shoot a commercial plane out of the sky...

Published: Jul 24 , 2014
Author: Mark Simpson

The media has discovered that Council controlled Auckland Transport is using special shuttles to move staff around Auckland – apparently because it’s faster than the public transport they provide for the rest of us. When challenged Auckland Transport shot themselves in the foot and provided us with a beautiful example of argument dilution. Initially, Auckland Transport highlighted the benefits of the shuttles as – being able to cut down the size of its car fleet and improve “business efficiency”. A good sound reason for trialling the shuttle businesses.

Published: Jul 17 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

As the summer political season approaches, we can expect to be bombarded from both sides of the pond with statements, postures and photo opportunities, all designed to gain some kind of political advantage. In the US the mid-term elections are being held in November; in May next year the General Election beckons and one of the key players in the British election is looking stateside for as much help as he can get. Ed Miliband has already employed David Axelrod. Axelrod, who helped President Obama to two victories, will join Labour’s general election campaign team as a senior strategic adviser...

Published: Jul 10 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Size matters. But so do lots of other things. It’s all in the detail, and we all know that. So, why are so many problems only discovered after the ink has long dried? The temptation as we approach the end game of a long and difficult negotiation is to heave a great sigh of relief and run to the pub to celebrate a job well done over a glass of our favourite tipple...

Published: Jul 03 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

I honestly do not know how many cities have trams. I know that in the UK, there are a fair few and some of the networks are extensive. Manchester and Sheffield, to name but two, have lines going all over the place and I am aware that Sheffield’s network is so well-used that a major upgrade programme has just been announced. Edinburgh now proudly joins these and, of course, many other European cities in having its very own tram – I was going to use the word “network” there again, but that’s not strictly true; “line” might be a better word. I can tell you without a moment of research and with no possibility of disagreement from anyone, anywhere that Edinburgh’s tram line excels in one area above all others – and that is its cost per kilometre...

Published: Jun 26 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

When companies get good at providing a service, it becomes convenient to put more and more business their way. They provide an efficient route to market; they give suppliers the chance to make one big delivery instead of four or five smaller ones; their marketing campaigns are slick and entice more customers through their – sometimes electronic – doors. From the consumers’ perspective, they provide a glitzy, one-stop-shop service that saves time, trouble and hassle. Eventually, they inhabit large green- or brown-field sites on the edges of great conurbations, with lots of parking and the odd ancillary service provided to make the whole retail experience that bit more bearable...

Published: Jun 19 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Last week it looked like politics was overwhelming the FIFA World Cup. Accusations of financial scandal involving the selection of Qatar as the venue for the 2022 competition, and adverse comment about the potential re-election of 78 year-old Sepp Blatter as President of FIFA dwarfed the press content about the actual football. Until, that is, the football actually started, after which all the dissent and scandal seemed to fade away. A similar situation occurred six months ago before the Winter Olympics at Sochi. Terrorists threatened to blow up the Games and LGBT activists tried to focus attention on human rights abuse in Russia. But after the opening ceremony, once the skiing and tobogganing started, it was sport, sport, sport all the way...

Published: Jun 12 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Researchers into fatalities caused by storms have made an interesting and rather odd finding. For as long as people have been tracking and reporting hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones, they’ve been struggling to find ways to identify them. Until well into the 20th century, newspapers and forecasters in the United States devised names for storms that referenced their time period, geographic location or intensity; hence, the Great Hurricane of 1722, the Galveston Storm of 1900, the Labour Day Hurricane of 1935 and the Big Blow of 1913...

Published: May 29 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

Until yesterday I thought that the bid by US pharma giant Pfizer for UK based pharma giant AstraZeneca was a flash-in-the-pan piece of opportunism. We first heard of the plan at the beginning of May, when an offer of £50 per share was tabled. The merger would create the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. It was based on two premises, firstly that AstraZeneca were weak because their product portfolio contained a number of high-profit drugs which were coming to the end of their patent protection, and with nothing much in the R&D cupboard to replace them, and secondly because it gave Pfizer an advantage by enabling them to move their head office to the UK and save loads of tax in an avoidance wheeze...

Published: May 22 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Politicians who promise that the streets will be paved with gold and deliver nothing but cobbled cul-de-sacs, managers who claim that the future will be filled with bonuses and jam while delivering dry crust and the negotiator who offers a future filled with high volume orders and pulls them whilst pocketing the promotional bonus. Nothing offends the sensibility quite so much as the empty promise delivered with mind-boggling confidence...

Published: May 15 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

On Wednesday Roger Boyes, the Diplomatic Editor of the London Times, wrote an op-ed piece critical of the West’s approach to the Iranian nuclear situation. In summary his view is that during the current negotiations Iranian President Rouhani may be making all the right noises about the lack of intent to build a nuclear bomb, but because he is a transient figure on the Iranian political scene, Boyes suggests that unless there is an agreement to international monitoring of the Revolutionary Guard, which is the stronger and more permanent force in Iranian politics and which controls the Iranian nuclear programme, then promises made so far will be worthless. As a result Iran will achieve a nuclear bomb and the world will be powerless to do anything about it in retrospect...

Published: May 08 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

In spite of its largely unknown cast, a promiscuous leading female character, a tragic death and a miniscule budget, Four Weddings and a Funeral is still one of the most successful British films ever made. It is now 20 years since it opened in Britain - making household names of its stars, and taking an estimated $250 million worldwide. Not bad for a budget of less than £3 million...

Published: May 01 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

During the Pistorius trial I happened to spend some time with a friend who is a judge. I asked him if over his 30 years of experience he had developed a sense of who was telling the truth, particularly important when the outcome of a court case between a plaintiff and a defendant at war depended on which version of events the judge believed because there were no witnesses. Yes, he said, you do get a feel for it; it’s not infallible but you usually know who is telling the truth...

Published: Apr 24 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

As 2014 heads for September, Scotland thinks of itself as at the centre of a political maelstrom. In truth, some Europeans are following the independence debate with interest, but the rest of the world could not, it seems, care a jot. Never mind; for those of us who live in Scotland – an important distinction as only those resident in Scotland in September will have a vote – it is providing politicians with a chance to strut their stuff and to ally themselves with people and parties who are normally their sworn enemies. Thus, we have the former prime minister, Gordon Brown speaking out on behalf of the “Better Together” campaign – a campaign for which his arch-enemy the current prime minister, David Cameron, has also spoken...

Published: Apr 17 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

I want you to imagine that you have been preparing for a negotiation and you have got to the point were you have to declare your financial proposal to paper. The bit that is going to be critical, maybe even the most important (maybe), is the price. We could drift tangentially off point here and talk about things that may be much more important than price, like availability, quality, terms, etc., etc., we won’t. But you should...

Published: Apr 10 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese Military tactician said “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” I was reminded of this famous quote when I read a review of Robert Lindsay’s new play, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which Lindsay talked about his political past. For people of my generation, Lindsay came to prominence in his breakthrough role as a hapless Marxist in the TV sitcom Citizen Smith...

Published: Apr 03 , 2014
Author: Romana Henry

As a French speaker, I was recently despatched to the French island of La Reunion, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean close to Mauritius and Madagascar to run a course. What a place! A tropical paradise with wonderful people, beaches, sea, food, scenery, the list goes on and on. My colleague Julien, originally from Paris but living there for the last 10 years – life’s a bitch – told me a lovely story...

Published: Mar 26 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

News pictures of distraught relatives of the passengers on flight MH370, missing now for more than 2 weeks, bring home an uncomfortable truth. Even in the light of technological detective work which broke new ground and determined beyond reasonable doubt that the plane had ditched in a remote part of the South Indian Ocean, many of the bereaved are unconvinced, and say they will remain sceptical until physical evidence of the plane in the sea is produced...

Published: Mar 20 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Alice Walker, author of “The Colour Purple" and civil rights activist said “The most common way that people give up their power, is by thinking they don’t have any”. The reality of the power of what we think was driven home to me recently by the TED talk given by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, who presented a kind of positive case for stress...

Published: Mar 13 , 2014
Author: David Bannister

I have just returned from holiday and one of the joys of a holiday is having lots of time to read. This holiday, one of the books I read was ‘A Street Cat named Bob’. It’s an uplifting and sometimes challenging book about a recovering drug addict – James Bowen, the author, and his cat, Bob whom he finds in the lobby of his building and whom he helps to recover from neglect and befriends. Having Bob gives James a reason for overcoming his heroin habit and he manages to get a job selling the ‘Big Issue’ in London – he had previously been a busker...

Published: Mar 06 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

As the current situation in Ukraine is changing so swiftly that no one has any serious ability to predict the outcome, conflict-resolution pundits should be reading the unfolding events in negotiating terms in order to make sense of what is going on, for themselves and for those who follow them. Why in negotiating terms? Because it is inevitable that sooner or later the parties involved will sit down and talk to each other. The world will hope that this happens within days, although recent history, for example in Syria, suggests that these talks might take years, with untold human misery happening in the vacuum. Here are some easily identifiable negotiating pointers to the events of the last 2 weeks...

Published: Feb 20 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Valentine’s Day gone. Red Roses wilting depressingly in the vase perched on the window sill. Champagne cork stuck behind the book on the top shelf where it landed and will remain, probably till we move house. Promises made in the heat of the night, vaguely remembered. Including the one about agreeing to do whatever it takes to get that leaking shower unit fixed (bet you were not expecting such a pedestrian promise) before our extended families descend on us for Easter, aquaplaning as it approaches in the outside lane...

Published: Feb 13 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Switzerland's economy is booming at the moment, and unemployment is low, but many Swiss worry about what they see as a looming problem, namely, immigration. Last year 80,000 new immigrants arrived in Switzerland with a relatively small overall population of around 5 million, and foreigners now make up 23% of the inhabitants. It is the continent's second highest foreign population after Luxembourg, for whom 42% are immigrants...

Published: Feb 06 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

The Winter Olympic Games open in Sochi this Friday, but any expectation that there would by now be a rising tide of enthusiasm for the splendour of the opening ceremony or the thrill of the sports on show has been dashed. Instead we only read about the likelihood of a Chechen terrorist attack, the possible effect on athletes and spectators of recently enacted anti-gay Russian legislation and the appalling prospect that some Western journalists might find their hotel bedrooms are unfinished...

Published: Jan 30 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

For a man who trained as a physician at the university of Damascus and who spent two years in post graduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital, part of the St Mary’s group of teaching hospitals in London; a man, furthermore, who had few, if any, political aspirations until his brother’s death in 1994, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is taking a pretty myopic view of retaining political power! For the past two years he and the Syrian political establishment have been engaged in a ruthless battle for power with the loosely-defined but western-supported opposition rebel forces...

Published: Jan 23 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

Many times in the classroom I have been asked a seemingly simple question. Is everything negotiable? For an answer, take a look at the current stand-off between the UK Liberal Democrat party and Lord Rennard. What a mess!

Published: Jan 16 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

There are interminable lists of top negotiating dos and don’ts available on the internet, in books, and on training courses. They mainly contain pieces of sensible, if obvious advice about how negotiators should conduct themselves. You may have read some of these lists, and you may even have been moved to try some of the tips. You certainly don’t need to see another one...

Published: Jan 09 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

New Year’s resolutions. We all do them. Although I have to say come March time they tend to have disappeared unlike the food belly that sadly gets a little bit bigger and more stubborn with each passing decade. So what’s the point? I guess they give us a little bit of focus for what should be important to us following a couple of weeks off from the ever spinning, ever faster treadmill that we call life...

Published: Dec 12 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Today’s friend is tomorrow’s foe in this dynamic and complex world. Barely a day goes by without mergers, acquisitions, take overs (hostile or not) or promotions, that takes the guy you were managing and makes him your boss. How do we best manage our relationships to get the most out of them in this constant flux? Seems the best way of building rapport is to focus on what psychologists call ‘uncommon commonalities’...

Published: Dec 06 , 2013
Author: David Bannister

“Please take your seats promptly after the coffee break” said the organiser at KPMG’s International Partners’ Conference in Cape Town in 1999. “We have a special guest”. Twenty minutes later the 150 or so of us at the conference watched Nelson Mandela, then approaching his eightieth birthday, walk slowly down the catwalk past us all and to the lectern in the centre. He carefully and deliberately read a prepared speech telling us how important it was for the city to be able to welcome such a distinguished group of international business leaders. It was a predictable address and I felt a little disappointed. “And finally…” he said as he folded up the paper from which he had been reading for ten minutes. There then followed an unscripted and fascinating twenty minutes when he spoke of the ANC’s accession to power in a democratic South Africa and how easy it would have been to settle old scores and seek bloody retribution for the years of racial oppression...

Published: Dec 05 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has promised to compensate those left "out of pocket" after customers were unable to pay for purchases. RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers making online and card payments were affected between 18:30 and 21:30 GMT this Monday. Bearing in mind that Monday was supposed to be the biggest on-line shopping day of the year (credit cards screaming with pre-Christmas purchases), this was indeed a big cock up. There were stories of students stranded in taxis they could not pay for, drinkers and diners with unpaid bills and mothers unable to buy nappies filling the morning news...

Published: Nov 29 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Don’t just do something. Stand there. The legislation allowing the UK government to build a high-speed rail line between London and Birmingham is to go before Parliament. Apparently the bill stretches to over 75,000 pages and details, almost down to the last blade of grass, exactly what ministers would like to build. The bulk of the bill, almost 50,000 pages is dedicated to the impact the first phase of HS2 will have on the environment....

Published: Nov 27 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland

Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond has announced 24 March 2016 as the date for the country’s exit from the United Kingdom, should the Scottish people (or rather, those people resident in Scotland at 18 September 2014) vote for independence. It is a date redolent with historical significance for the historically-minded, for on that date in 1603, the union of the Scottish and English crowns took place and later, in 1707 on the same date, the Acts of Union were signed creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain...

Published: Nov 21 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

It is peculiar how news stories often converge and clash. Newspapers worldwide today report the court-hearing in St Petersburg yesterday which culminated in bail being granted to eight pro-environment Greenpeace activists who had attempted to scale an oil rig in the Pechora Sea in September. Also today, The Moscow Times reports on its front page that anti-terrorism exercises carried out in Sochi, the venue for the upcoming Winter Olympics, targeted pro-environment activists who are staunch opponents of the Games, detaining one of their leaders at an airport in the region for four hours on the grounds that he looked like a terrorist....

Published: Nov 14 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

After the failure, albeit perhaps temporarily, of the negotiations in Geneva last weekend between the Iranian Foreign Minister and representatives of the superpowers over the future of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave an interview to the BBC. My interest was drawn to this extract...

Published: Oct 24 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland

You have probably never heard of Grangemouth. Even its mother would be hard pressed to call it a pretty town, festooned as it is with tall steel chimneys belching fire into the night sky on the Firth of Forth about 15 miles west of Edinburgh on Scotland’s east coast. It is home to an oil refinery that accounts for about 10% of Scotland’s GDP and it is owned by a company called Ineos. You have probably never heard of it either, though it is Britain’s largest private company...

Published: Oct 17 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

The Oxford English Dictionary defines charm as ‘the power or quality of delighting, attracting, or fascinating others’. It is a word which has been much used recently about the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in particular in connection with the speech he made to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24th. It is difficult to know how much the world’s perception of his charm is actually a reflection on the lack of this same quality in his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...

Published: Oct 10 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

Before working with a powerful FMCG company in Europe I asked of the thousands of points of sale they have how many client relationships they lose every year to competing companies. The company proudly announced that last year they lost less than 1% annually to competition. I dared to suggest that 1% is probably not enough and that they need to lose more business. This did not deter them from working with us and here’s why...

Published: Oct 04 , 2013
Author: Simon Letchford

This week’s government shutdown makes both sides of politics look dreadful. A poll this week had Congress less popular than head lice and root-canal surgery. But, channeling Rahm Emmanuel, (“never let a serious crisis go to waste”), here are a few negotiating lessons to take from Washington’s latest home-cooked fiasco...

Published: Sep 26 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Gordon Brown's, (the Labour parties former leader and British Prime Minister), former spin doctor has revealed how he regularly attempted to discredit the aspiring PM’s rivals by leaking stories about them to the media. In extracts of a memoir published in the Daily Mail last week, Damian McBride claims he smeared Labour ministers including Charles Clarke and John Reid during Mr Brown's bid to succeed Tony Blair...

Published: Sep 19 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Ed Miliband. Not only does he have the physiognomy of a character from Wallace and Gromit, a brother who probably won’t speak to him, he now also has to deal with how the Labour party is funded and supported by the Unions under the watchful gaze of the whole country....

Published: Sep 12 , 2013
Author: Keith Stacey

Sportsmen and women choke but apparently poker players "tilt". I came across this term in Nate Silver's excellent book the Signal and the Noise. Tilting is defined as over aggressive play brought on by a lack of perspective, or playing without discipline. A number of tilts are listed and could just as easily applies to negotiating...

Published: Sep 05 , 2013
Author: Simon Letchford

I’ve always found it fascinating how many people who attend our negotiating skills training talk about how the techniques that work in the workplace have worked at home as well. There are, however, a few pitfalls for those who want to hone their negotiating skills in the kitchen, so I thought that I’d share a few domestic do's and don'ts, mostly learned the hard way...

Published: Aug 29 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

When we ask people to define negotiation on the Scotwork pre-course paperwork, purchasing people very often refer to “finding a middle road” or “common ground”. They deal every day with variables about which they and the people across the table feel differently and what they really mean is “let’s split the difference”. Sales people however refer to “persuasion” often as their all encompassing definition of negotiation. This persuasion they see as a unilateral process of changing the view of the other party in order to have them accept their offer or opinion. Salespeople often consider this to be an essential fundamental skill of their trade...

Published: Aug 22 , 2013
Author: John McMillan

It is said that the two happiest times in a sailor’s life are the day they buy a boat and the day they sell their boat. I have a third occasion which beats even these. It is also said there are two types of sailors: those who like painting and those who like sailing. I fall into the latter category; maintenance is boring; sailing is fun....

Published: Jul 18 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Whilst I love the sight of a Chinese lantern drifting off aimlessly into a moonlit night on a lovely summers evening, I am not sure I will ever light one again. The apocalyptic blaze caused by one of these burning lanterns landing on the Jayplus recycling unit in Smethwick near Birmingham was captured live on CCTV. The resulting wall of flames could be seen from 80 miles away and the damage cost a reported £6 million. Not to mention the risk to life and limb bourn by the heroic fire service trying to manage the disaster.

Published: Jun 20 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland

Britvic plc is a big company. Last year, it sold 1.9bn litres of soft drinks and it employs approximately 3500 people. Brands include Tango, J2O, Robinsons as well as its eponymous mixer drinks. It has a Scottish-based rival called A G Barr plc, makers of the iconic Scottish drink, Irn Bru (made from girders!), as well as Tizer and other well-known brands. A G Barr is also a big player in the soft drinks market with a turnover last year of £237m...

Published: Jun 13 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

Taking a position in a conflict makes its resolution more difficult. And the more witnesses there are to that position-taking the less the likelihood of a negotiated settlement. In Istanbul positions have been taken in the most public sense possible in front of a global audience and I am not alone in fearing that a settlement is unlikely in the short-term. One thing we learn from watching thousands of hours of negotiation is that people either act or dig in NOT because of a complicated array of issues but usually for a SINGLE issue. Conversely, where many issues are raised these are generally some form of rationalisation of a single need or argument, or even a smoke screen. In Istanbul, the protestors’ single issue is that they feel that the government interferes with their personal choices and freedoms. The government, beneath the watchful eyes of the passive majority, feels a need not to be seen to have given in....

Published: May 16 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Asking good questions that are tough, direct and specific is one of the key things we can do to improve the quality of our negotiation behavior and resulting outcomes. A study in the US tried to identify the best kind of questions to ask in a classic buyer seller relationship...

Published: May 02 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

As the death toll from the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment manufacturing building in Dhaka, Bangladesh approaches 400, the attention of the world’s press is focussing on the Western companies who buy merchandise from the manufacturers located in this and other similar buildings. Reports over many years have highlighted issues of sweated labour, pitiful wages, and the employment of young children. These are disgraceful abuses of human rights which buyers claim they were unaware of at the time, and appropriate noises about improving conditions for workers are made, only for the same allegations to crop up again a few months later...

Published: Apr 25 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland

BMW used to do it. So did Mercedes. Porsche and Ferrari still do as far as I am aware, though it’s been a while since I checked. Then along came the so-called “budget” airlines and the tactic is back in vogue with a vengeance. It starts with a loud - gaudy even – welcome page on which there is loudly displayed a low figure. At the time of writing, the figure is £10. The word “cheap” appears and you are tempted along to the “flights” window. “£10” and “flights” together; it’s a heady mix that conjures up the golden age of travel together with cheap air fares, so you delve deeper. Mind you – the words “golden age of travel” and “Ryanair” are not comfortable bedfellows, but never mind; I live in Edinburgh – where could I go? What could go wrong?...

Published: Apr 18 , 2013
Author: Claudio Cubito

When the painter James McNeill Whistler was a cadet at West Point, he was assigned to draw a bridge in an engineering class. Whistler drew a spectacular bridge and included two boys fishing from it. His deliberate inclusion displeased the instructor, who ordered him to draw it again without the young fishermen on the bridge. Whistler did as he was instructed, but unwilling to completely stifle his vision; he drew the bridge again with the boys fishing from the riverbank.

Published: Apr 10 , 2013
Author: David Bannister

Many words have been written in the past few days since the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, some reflect her perceived greatness and others portray her as a class enemy. I cannot hope to emulate the lyrical heights to which some have soared in the press. I can, however, look back and reflect on the way she dealt with trade unions and specifically the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s. During that time I was an Industrial Relations Officer in a manufacturing factory situated in the middle of the South Yorkshire coalfield. Friends and neighbours were involved both practically and emotionally in all of the events of that memorable year from March 1984 to March 1985...

Published: Mar 28 , 2013
Author: The Scotwork Team

Over the weekend there were reports in the UK media that the multinational retailer Laura Ashley had written to its suppliers requesting an immediate 10% cost price reduction on all orders already agreed and contracted. The demand was accompanied by a statement that this would save Laura Ashley the need to review its supplier base – in other words, failure to agree would prompt such a review, and some suppliers would inevitably be delisted as a result...

Published: Mar 20 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland

The current financial crisis in one of the EU’s outposts, Cyprus, clearly exemplifies and demonstrates some undeniable negotiating truths...

Published: Mar 07 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

Shortly after taking office for his second term, President Obama announced that he would visit the Middle East to kick-start a peace process. That visit is scheduled for later this month, but there was speculation last week that it might be cancelled if the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also recently re-elected, has not been able to form a coalition government before the Obama visit...

Published: Feb 28 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

The British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the talks with John Kerry, the new US Secretary of State, would be so far reaching that it would be difficult to know where to start. I am sure he was joking. At least I hope he was.....

Published: Feb 14 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Perhaps a better question might be, where’s the beef? The continuing furore about what actually is in our food took another turn when Findus had to withdraw all of their Frozen Beef Lasagne after it was discovered that the beef was actually horse. Neigh I hear you cry...

Published: Jan 31 , 2013
Author: Gaëtan Pellerin

Each of us has encountered this type of negotiator: A customer who threatens to give your business to a competitor if you don’t give in to what he or she wants. A family member or close friend who behaves as a victim, playing the guilt card. Or an angry boss when the outcome is not what he or she expected...

Published: Jan 10 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

The most frequent request asked of Scotwork consultants is ‘Teach me how to know I have paid the right price’. It comes from a lifetime of self-doubt; that although the negotiated deal looks like a good one, satisfies the need, resolves the conflict, addresses the issues and falls within the levels of affordability, there is a demon nagging at the back of the brain. ‘Sucker!’ says the demon, ‘you could have done much better than that’...

Published: Jan 03 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

When I was younger, so much younger than today - I would occasionally find myself in situations which I really struggled to handle. Let me give you an example. There was this particular chap, whom we will call Ian Sharples for the purpose of the story; he was 2 years older than me, considerably bigger, and to be honest, a bit rough-looking. Even his mother struggled to love him.

Published: Dec 20 , 2012
Author: Robin Copland

When is a negotiation not a negotiation? When both parties involved admit that on the one substantive issue involved, there is no movement. Here’s the story. In March this year, a ticket inspector working for ScotRail, the main provider of train services in Scotland (I suppose you might argue that the clue is in the name!) reduced a passenger to tears. This was a first on Britain’s railways; normally it is late-running trains and cancellations that reduce passengers to tears, but on this occasion, sadly for Scott Lewis, the ticket inspector involved, he had got the whole thing completely wrong....

Published: Dec 13 , 2012
Author: Robin Copland

They eat a lot of peanuts in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a landing on Mars approaches. It is an old tradition that dates back to 31 July 1964 when Ranger 7, an unmanned space probe was due to approach the planet, take a few pictures on the way down, then crash onto the surface at breakneck speed. Bear in mind that only a year or two previously, President Kennedy had targeted the USA with landing men on the moon, then returning them safely to Earth by the end of that decade. You would have thought, would you not, that crashing onto Mars would have been well within the wit and capability of the good folks at NASA; sadly not. Rangers 1 through 6 had failed miserably in their various attempts to crash on the planet and Ranger 7 was their last shot at glory...

Published: Dec 06 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

A man on his Harley was riding along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, God said, "Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish."

 The biker pulled over and said, "Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can ride over anytime I want." 

 God replied, "Your request is materialistic; think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking; the supports required reaching the bottom of the Pacific and the concrete and steel it would take! I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that could possibly help mankind."
...

Published: Nov 29 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

On July 20th 1969, the late Neil Armstrong was the first man to step onto the surface of the moon. As commander of Apollo 11 his legend was secured by this act of endeavor, courage and ambition. His words as he left the Eagle have been recorded for posterity. ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. These words were beamed to the millions of global viewers making it one of the most watched televised events in history...

Published: Nov 14 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

Abu Qatada is a Jordanian cleric. He is also an alleged terrorist. He was found guilty in a Jordanian court, in his absence, of committing terrorist crimes. He has lived in the UK since 1993, and until yesterday he was in custody in the UK. The British government have been attempting to deport him to stand trial in Jordan, but he claims that his human rights would be breached if he was sent home because some of the evidence against him has been obtained from witnesses who were tortured. UK and European law prevents a suspected criminal being tried in these circumstances. So deportation has been refused by the courts. On Tuesday he was released from prison, although he will be closely monitored, and protected. The UK government are hopping mad and have pledged to continue to fight to send him home to Jordan...

Published: Oct 26 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

On Sunday last week an Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, jumped from space. He set a world record for the highest jump, at 39km, and the fastest human free-fall, at 1,342km/h. Just to give some context, a Boeing 747 travels at about 917km/h. Pretty quick. The man broke the sound barrier. The planning and preparation that went into the event was staggering...

Published: Jun 15 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

Paul Simon’s ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’ predated social media, so the lyrics don’t refer to exiting a relationship via SMS, iMessage, BBM, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the myriad others. Something like ‘It’s not you, it’s me. Hope we can still be friends’, which so conveniently comes in at under Twitter’s 140 character limit...

Published: Jun 01 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

My 93 year old mum-in-law came to live with us recently, and this meant that we needed to install a stair lift to get her to and from her bedroom on the upper floor of our home. It is now installed and working, much to her satisfaction. Doing the deal gave me food for thought. I did my research online – it looked like we were going to be in for about £2000 given the specification and size of the staircase. We selected three companies to come and quote; one which advertises nationally and is a household name, one selected from the internet, and one recommended by our local mobility store...

Published: May 18 , 2012
Author: Robin Copland

There are interesting changes afoot in the relationship between France and the USA now that President Sarkozy – more of a Bush man than an Obama fan – has been replaced by President Hollande. He and Obama have much in common, including their centre-left persuasion and their shared background as university teachers. That said, one is American and the other is French so culturally there is much that separates them...

Published: May 11 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Can’t imagine there is much singing and dancing in the hallowed halls of the EU head office in Brussels at the moment. (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is the theme tune, if that is the right phrase, for the European Union). The recent elections in France and Greece have thrown the Euro again into a crisis that may cause joy in many UK households as they plan their escape from rainy Britain, but seems to have riled the German nation, and particularly their sour faced leader Angela Merkel...

Published: Apr 27 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Manchester City play Manchester United next Monday (30th April) in a match that should identify the team that will win the Championship. Both teams come to the end of a grueling and competitive season and both teams have 3 games left to play. Whichever team wins on Monday will be in pole position to bring the league home to Manchester. Manchester being the winner in both cases.

Published: Apr 20 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

The actress Goldie Hawn declared this week that her long-term relationship (they have so far not married) to Kurt Russell is based on the fact that they love the smell of each other. She claims it is the basis of their desire to be together. I know, I know, but before you dismiss it as another freakie deakie Hollywood attempt to create a bit of noise about nothing, think about it....

Published: Apr 13 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

Bernie Ecclestone’s views promoting the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix are quietly spoken, articulate, and morally reprehensible. There will always be a suspicion that his attitude is driven by money. Although the £25 million fee for the right to stage the race has already been paid by Bahrain to F1 and would be forfeit anyway if the race could not take place, the possibility of interminable and expensive legal action following a cancellation, together with the loss of all the ancillary revenue, must somehow be a factor...

Published: Mar 29 , 2012
Author: Robin Copland

London 2012 has negotiators flexing their muscles all over the capital as we approach the final run-up to the Games. In The Times of Friday 23 March, I read that the head of the RMT union, Bob Crow, has broken off talks with the London Underground management team at the UK conciliation service ACAS. The RMT is the union that represents tube workers’ interests. The union is threatening strike action as a result of the latest proposals from the management team...

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...

Published: Mar 16 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Terribly difficult question. If you don’t know the answer that is. PC Stout was completely flummoxed when a cyclist he had stopped for (allegedly) running a red light in London turned on him and asked on what basis he was being challenged...

Published: Mar 02 , 2012
Author: Robin Copland

A recurring theme when you read about Ryanair’s negotiations – be they with aircraft manufacturers or airport operators – are the words “breakdown of negotiations”. The confrontational style that the airline seems to employ should not necessarily be knocked. It continues to buck the trend and return excellent operating results, but, as it is discovering, its negotiating partners seem less keen than hitherto to bow down and accept the tough proposals that the airline puts forward...

Published: Feb 24 , 2012
Author: Tom Feinson

Back in the day and before agents rose to prominence, a footballer, having just made his debut for England, decided to ask his club manager for a pay rise. After all his stock was on the rise; surely other clubs, for example, would be interested in him? The unnamed manager’s response was unexpected...

Published: Feb 17 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

A sales director was playing a game of golf with the procurement director from his largest and most prestigious client. During the round the course ran adjacent to a small road. As the pair drove off on the 8th a hearse started to slowly make its way along the lane and would eventually pass the men...

Published: Feb 10 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

Two accounts clerks and their manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a Genie comes out. The Genie offers each of them one wish...

Published: Feb 03 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Appropriately in 2012 I was talking to a director of a communications agency who had been heavily involved in developing the messaging and communication platform for London’s successful bid to hold the Olympics back in 2005 All was looking good but still the actual presentations had to be made to the selection committee when the final decision would be announced...

Published: Jan 27 , 2012
Author: Robin Copland

The two biggest world aircraft producers are Boeing and Airbus. These companies have enjoyed a duopoly for the past twenty years, according to Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary. Ryanair currently operate 275 Boeing aircraft. The airline is the largest low cost airline in Europe. O’Leary changed Ryanair’s traditional business model to a low-cost model based on Southwest Airlines. He has since refined that model and famously trails what seem at the time to be outrageous ideas before implementing them and seeing them become part of the traditional way of doing business (scratch cards, paying for drinks and food on board the aircraft, credit card charges and the like)...

Published: Jan 20 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Hard to believe but cricket just isn’t cricket anymore. The game that seemed for many years to define the concept of fairness and honorable play has slipped into terrible disrepute. The problems with match rigging and spot betting seem rife. It seemed to begin in Pakistan when three former Pakistan players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Aamir - were jailed over spot-fixing in the Lord's Test in England in 2010...

Published: Jan 13 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

Everybody should be advised to take at least two drink-free days a week, say MPs, who urge in a report that safe drinking guidelines should be revised because they are confusing. Even more confusing after a couple of beers! The House of Commons science and technology committee says awareness of the existence of the guidelines is high, but public understanding of what they mean is poor. More help is needed so that drinkers understand what a unit of alcohol actually looks like, so they can have an idea of how many units they are drinking in a pint of beer, glass of wine or shot of vodka...

Published: Jan 06 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

The Christmas tree is hardly dethroned, the last mince pie still to be eaten and the coffee creams the only sweets left when the whole world seems to have shifted on it’s slightly larger and wobblier access. Pre Christmas it is all cookery programmes on TV, focusing on sweets, cakes and bakery. January the 1st arrives and FatBusters, The Biggest Loser and Get Healthy with Gino all hit the screen to fuel our disappointment with ourselves for the gluttony and monumental weakness of our seasonal selves...

Published: Dec 16 , 2011
Author: Stephen White

As the invective from senior French politicians as a result of the UK’s negotiating position at the European summit last week becomes harsher, we should maybe ponder the wisdom that long term relationships benefit from Win-Win negotiating style...

Published: Nov 25 , 2011
Author: Alan Smith

Many of us will have heard of, and indeed donated regularly to the swear box. Indeed any attempt to keep swearing in public under control should be applauded. Peculiar then that a judge this week upheld an appeal overturning Denzel Cassius Harvey's conviction for repeatedly using the F word at police officers, Mr Justice Bean said officers were so regularly on the receiving end of the "rather commonplace" expletive that it was unlikely to cause them "harassment, alarm or distress".

Published: Nov 19 , 2011
Author: Stephen White

No matter how interesting and varied the job might be, most workers will tell you that after a time life becomes routine. For those who are office-bound the glamour of the international traveller looks enticing, but the traveller will tell you of the interminable boredom they experience during the process of flying. When I was a child someone told me that people who work in a sweetie factory could eat as many sweets as they wanted – every child’s dream; years later when I started work I spent a lot of time at the Cadbury factory in Bournville with people who were so bored with chocolate they never ate it; the availability of chocolate for them had become routine (although it never was for me!)...

Published: Nov 11 , 2011
Author: Stephen White

Genesis Chapter 18 might be an unusual source to derive some interesting negotiating techniques, but as they say in showbiz ‘the old ones are the best’. Chapter 18 tells the story of the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah, on the shore of the Dead Sea, which were centres of evil. The Almighty decides to liquidate the twin towns, and tells Abraham of his intentions...

Published: Oct 28 , 2011
Author: Robin Copland

In the Daily Telegraph of 2 October 2011, Robert Winnett, the newspaper’s deputy political editor, wrote an interesting short piece about David Cameron’s potential future plans for the UK’s long-term relationship with the European Union. For those who live outwith the UK, the Daily Telegraph is a right of centre “quality” newspaper, read in the main by a middle class audience, most of whom would be supporters of the Conservative party. It would be fair to describe it as “euro-sceptic” and it is famously against any more power leakage from the UK to Europe...

Published: Sep 30 , 2011
Author: Mike Freedman

I watched Manchester City’s Manager Roberto Mancini’s outburst straight after the Champions’ League game in which Carlos Tevez reportedly refused to go on to the pitch. Mancini clearly said that Carlo Tevez would not play for him again. In fact at one point prior to this outburst he had claimed that it wasn’t his decision. It just seems that later as he appeared to gain encouragement from the supportive comments of the BBC’s man holding the microphone, he went the whole way and declared his position on his Argentinean ex-captain. There are a few points of interest in the events both within and surrounding that interview...

Published: Sep 23 , 2011
Author: Alan Smith

Basildon Council in Essex has today sent notices to each of the 51 illegally occupied plots at the travellers' site at Dale Farm in Essex, following the injunction until Friday preventing bailiffs entering the site to clear the unauthorised plots. The council said the eviction could take place on Friday if their intended legal challenge to the injunction succeeds. Many of the traveller residents who had left the site are on their way back. Buoyed by the events of the last 24 hours, it seems that the precedent set by the extremely high profile legal kicking the council has taken may have caused a seismic shift in the power balance. Only time will tell...

Latest Blog:

DUPed

Two’s company; 27’s a crowd. It may be tricky negotiating with a single party, but when there are 27 divergent interests on the other side of the table it becomes even harder. That is just part of the challenge that the UK Government has in their Brexit negotiations. In most negotiations the negotiator is not negotiating for their own benefit; they almost always represent a coalition of interests. If that coalition is united in its mandate to the negotiator, then she or he may have very little room to manoeuvre. Any concession beyond the mandate will have to go back to the coalition for approval. However, if there is disunity amongst the coalition then the negotiator’s ability to make a deal is fatally flawed...

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