Negotiating Tip #57:
Persistence – or Stubbornness?
Mobus Creative Negotiating has made much use of the work of Wharton School psychologist Adam Grant. His new book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know has many insights useful for negotiators. One is about what psychologists call “escalation of commitment.”
Grant explains, “When we dedicate ourselves to a plan and it isn’t going as we hoped, our first instinct isn’t usually to rethink it. Instead, we tend to double down and sink more resources in the plan.” We do this, Grant explains, “because we’re rationalizing creatures, constantly searching for self-justification for our prior beliefs as a way to soothe our egos, shield our images, and validate our past decisions.”
Grant is writing mostly about life choices, such as what career to pursue. But negotiators would do well to heed his advice: “time for a checkup,” that is, sit back and re-evaluate what are your objectives and whether it is worthwhile to pour more resources into what has not worked so far. He entitles the chapter on this matter “escaping tunnel vision” because we need to have a broader viewpoint than “how do we implement our plan?” We need to consider what are our strategic objectives and whether our plan is the best way to get there.
Even if everything is going well in the relationship with a supplier or customer, still bear in mind Grant’s advice: “a successful relationship requires regular rethinking.” Keeping up the old habits is not necessarily a formula for success. Grant devotes an entire chapter to the dangers of the viewpoint, “that’s not the way we’ve always done it.”
We at Mobus Creative Negotiating teach ways to build what Grant calls “a culture of learning” so that negotiators can anticipate problems rather than reacting to them – or worse, ignore them until they become crises which threaten the very existence of the firm.