Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Since our middle name is “creative,” we at Mobus Creative Negotiating emphasize creative ways to add value to a deal: to do things neither side was thinking of but which make for a better deal. Many people think creativity is like lightning: it strikes or it doesn’t. Actually, there is much we can do to stimulate us to consider the unconsidered. First and foremost, get out of a rut, think about an issue in a wholly new way.

Unfortunately, that is not what we as humans are conditioned to do. Habits are powerful. As Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan put it in the New York Times, “We persist with them because, “trying something new can be painful: I might not like what I get and must forego something I already enjoy.” ( A recent study looked at the two-day February 2014 London Underground strike which forced commuters to find new routes. When the strike ended, some people stuck with the new routes, which saved them on average 20 percent of their commute time. So why had these people not used that alternate route all along? Because they were stuck in a routine.

When we negotiate, we can often do better if we get out of our comfort zone and try something new. It is tough to ask the other side to consider doing things differently in a way that will cost them something but make a big difference for you. And it is hard to persuade your own team that it is worthwhile making a change that costs you more on the grounds that the change really helps the other side, and so you can get something for it.

Mullainathan explains that a powerful reason we stick with old habits is that we are overly confident: we are sure we know what works best, when often our information is incomplete or wrong. We see that all the time in business negotiations, where one side is sure that the other team will reject out of hand a proposed change. We don’t really know that until we try. Of course, there is an art to how to explore changing the deal, which will be the subject of a future blog.