Hunting for Value in a Negotiation

WHAT IS “NON-OBVIOUS?”

Well, obviously, non-obvious is that which we don’t readily see or notice. Why does this matter?

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Most of what’s valuable in a negotiation is hidden …

There are several reasons people keep what’s really going hidden - but the fact is that they just do. Perhaps they’re afraid that revealing their bottom-line or real goal makes them vulnerable to accept a weak deal. Or, perhaps they just don’t know or the organization they work for has given them limited information. Regardless, what we want to do in a negotiation is challenge the situation so that we have access or an opportunity to making a much more lucrative outcome.

If I am transactional at times (or even most of the time) there’s nothing wrong with that - I don’t spend too much energy trying to get the market to sell me an apple for 60 cents when it’s priced at 75 cents. However, if I am interested in a lot of apples, or a regular supply of apples, then it behooves me to challenge the situation to find a non-obvious way of making a better buy.

Maybe I am in the apple pie making business. When I go looking for apples I begin by noting that the selling price was determined either: (i) arbitrarily, or (ii) through some internal negotiation they had held - in either case, though, the price is necessarily negotiable. We don’t get too far in a negotiation when we just haggle over the position of the price with our own arbitrary position. Where we really have tremendous upside is in asking questions about the wider scope involved. Where do you get your apples from? Do you have other types of apples? How far do you have to transport them by truck? What other things do you sell? And from there we can turn these into “if-then” propositions. If I bought apples twice a week instead of once a week and handled the delivery, would you … ?

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Rob Flitton’s highly original work on negotiation focuses on finding results that are not immediately apparent (non-obvious) and that provide much better potential for upside than downside (asymmetry). He takes “conflict” (the disagreement over anything ranging from market-prices to ideas) and demonstrates how to turn these challenges into financial, spiritual, and ideological gains.

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Rob Flitton was interviewed in mid-2018: