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July 12, 2012

Brainstorming

SNI's Philosophy

Jeff Cochran

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There are times in negotiations that you will feel like the weaker party. Maybe you are less experienced, have less leverage, or something else entirely. For whatever reason, you feel like David squaring off against Goliath. So how do you combat this problem? Well David didn’t show up with only one stone and neither should you. You must find alternative and back-up plans in case particular proposals are shot down. Finding creative approaches around the seemingly insoluble dilemmas posed by Goliath can lead to a victory for the little guy. Next time you find yourself in a tough negotiating spot, remember to brainstorm creative solutions using the following four rules.

1) Brainstorm in groups of four or less. You must have two to brainstorm, but there’s a point of diminishing ideas. Groups of more than four tend to stifle ideas. The group becomes an audience instead of participants. Judgment sets in. Status can become involved. All of these inhibit ideas.

2) Don’t criticize ideas. Let them flow. A great idea can be the first words out of someone’s mouth. Or the last. Any idea, good or bad, can be the spark that leads to great ideas. Wait until the brainstorming session is over before doing the sorting and sifting.

3) Keep at it. Creativity is more perspiration than inspiration. Effective negotiators are creative negotiators. But many people are intimidated by the prospect of being creative. They shouldn’t be. Everyone has the capacity to create ideas. If you create 20 ideas for a solution that seemingly only has 2, it will help you choose the best alternatives. Volume begets creativity.

4) Make it fun. Like most preparation, brainstorming is not inherently fun. So, make it fun. Sometimes we brainstorm by splitting into two groups. Each side gets a packet of sticky notes. The idea of the game is to write down ideas, one per note, and connect all the ideas into a chain of notes. Depending on the issue, we take from five to fifteen minutes to generate ideas. People become so involved in coming up with ideas, connecting them, and trying to construct as long a chain as possible, they invariably come up with new solutions, no matter how many times we’ve done a problem before.

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