Creativity as a bonus during negotiations

Creative thinking can boost the ability of negotiators to secure the most favourable outcomes when bargaining. Especially when that creativity is linked to their specific skills it may give negotiators a winning edge. But companies need to provide the right mood music to bring out the best in them.

A pioneering study by the Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School into the elusive contribution made by creativity in the negotiating process found that being creative, in itself, does not guarantee better economic results. But the findings of this study indicate that the role played by creativity in negotiations is more complex than previously thought. It may be interacting with the distinct skills needed for successful results – problem-solving, rational thinking and emotional intelligence – in order to maximize those gains.

The researchers suggest that negotiation situations could be designed to help those taking part tap into their creative side, and put forward a valuable set of guidelines to help people negotiate more effectively.

Practical negotiation guide

How can you manipulate the context in which bargaining takes place in order to maximize its creative potential? Some tips.

1/ Situation is paramount: being a creative person does not guarantee that you will behave creatively at any given moment. Therefore negotiators need to eliminate negative influences by, for example, avoiding time pressure, negotiating in rooms with enough space, minimizing noise and avoiding interruptions.

2/ Mind the power gap: if you are in a position of power vis-à-vis the other negotiator and display creativity, you may be seen as manipulative, paying no attention to the other person, or even overwhelming – provoking a defensive reaction. Remember, power is not a winning factor and relinquishing it helps you to think long term about the relationship.

3/ Create common ground: the most important objective is to find “common ground”, so it is essential to foster conditions that allow you to share power and nurture collaboration. Establish credibility and build trust by being polite, recognizing the other participant as equal and understanding where they are coming from, and build the relationship by letting them talk and put their point of view.

4/ Presentation: watch how you present your ideas, and instead of making rigid statements ask questions seeking potential solutions in the search for common ground. Listen to your counterpart, and display empathy to foster their trust. This gives the other participant a sense of ownership in a solution and increases their sense of value.

Source: ‘The Effect of Negotiator Creativity on Negotiation Outcomes’. Research by Ann-Sophie de Pauw, David Venter, Veronique Warmoes and Kobus Neethling. Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School.

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