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Using creativity to negotiate a more sustainable deal

With times of crisis comes great opportunity so long as we remain nimble and responsive enough to rise to the opportunities as opposed to sinking to the crisis.

As we find ourselves in an environment which creates far more questions than answers for what lies ahead in a post COVID19 world, one thing remains constant: the need to strike deals. With times of crisis comes great opportunity so long as we remain nimble and responsive enough to rise to the opportunities as opposed to sinking to the crisis. Going forward with a business-as-usual approach is no longer viable yet we need to forge new paths ahead. Whether you consider yourself a creative person or otherwise, the ability to leverage creativity and cultivate innovative solutions will be a key distinction in which deals nosedive, survive or thrive over the next 18 months.

Here are some top tips to consider for cultivating creative solutions:

Timing

No one has a crystal ball to tell you what the future holds and when it will unfold, nevertheless, it is crucial to keep top of mind on how the decisions and plans you make today and their respective impacts five minutes from now, five weeks from now, five months from now, and five years from now. In times of duress, it is common to witness a bias towards action. While immediate action may deliver relief and comfort in the moment the compounded costs can be immeasurable if the action has failed to consider the impacts for the future, a concept known as First Order and Second-Order Thinking. 

How often have you acted quickly to put out a fire, only to create other unintended fires as a result of the actions taken to resolve the original fire? First Order Thinking addresses the now without regard for what’s next. Second-Order thinking evaluates the implications of the actions across time and diverse systems. A simplistic way to incorporate Second-Order Thinking is to ask “and then what?” in response to investigating resolutions.

As Ray Dalio put it, “Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored”. Taking the time upfront for thorough vetting and preparation can feel unproductive yet time well spent now can deliver far greater returns to your deals in the long run.

Trust & Relationships

A Dutch proverb reminds us that “Trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback”. This sentiment has exponential meaning during times of crisis. For truly innovative and creative solutions to surface, trust and relationships will be the cornerstone to successful strategies. In negotiation tactics, we reference to trust and relationships most often regarding the counterparty, yet we cannot overlook how trust and relationships impact our own side of the table. Cultivating trust starts with an awareness of your personal inclination towards autonomy and loyalty. In times of uncertainty do you turn inward or outward for support? Turning inward reflects a higher sense of autonomy while turning outward reflects a higher sense of loyalty. Understanding your position, that neither is right nor wrong, creates awareness of your natural disposition thus better suiting you to be able to consciously choose which stance to implore, recognizing there is much to be gained in working collaboratively and leveraging the strengths of a group rather than relying solely on an individual.

Strategic Design

Acutely aware that business will not go back to business as usual, we must embrace ambiguity and the discomfort that can bring. The landscape has shifted and so too must our response. Yet, just because there is a need to embrace unknown or unproven solutions does do not mean we have to do so without a strategic evaluation and plan. In instances without precedent, as we find ourselves today, one way we can approach problem-solving and creating new solutions is by taking a designer’s approach of focusing on the human (re: customer) need as the centre of action and path for innovation, asking why, what if, and how as a strategic framework.

The underpinning of asking “why” is being able to question to seek information rather than affirmation. Skilful questioning uncovers existing assumptions which allow for deeper discoveries thus equipping you with more information to plan, or in this case, move into the “what if” step for planning. The “what if” gathers all the information available to create contingencies and plan of actions for the present and future state you are building towards, which can be stress-tested by following through with the “how” of implementation. 

Navigating uncharted territories can feel daunting, yet by embracing creative approaches we may just fashion dynamic outcomes which could not have been fathomed prior.

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