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The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding


Laws of Power 11: Enhance Intelligence Collection

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

France’s 16th century politician and thinker Cardinal Richelieu wrote that “if one foresees from far away the designs to be undertaken, one can act with speed when the moment comes to execute them.” As a scholar and practitioner of power, Richelieu found that most people focus on their immediate circumstances and that plans are usually based on dreams. Richelieu cautioned that those who are careless, have no plan and rely on open-ended dreams often become overwhelmed by circumstances and are rendered powerless.

There are many lessons from classic laws about power which caution negotiators about the “disasters” of plans founded only on hearts and dreams. Contemporary and historical thinkers about power often speculate on why the human search for power often fails. A fundamental conclusion about a lack of goal achievement is due to the human tendency to react to things as they happen instead of training oneself to plan and carry out a strategy.

Plans resting on imagination and glory rather than on a map about how to manage the realities of obstacles rarely lead to the prize.

We continue this week with an emphasis on the cognitive and intellectual skills required to improve negotiation planning. This week we will address how an informed plan and quality intelligence can help negotiators increase their negotiation leverage and strategy. The negotiation goals must be crystal clear and constantly kept in mind as negotiators anticipate the many possible crises that will tempt negotiators to improvise, become anxious and lose clarity about the end result.

With effective intelligence collection techniques and an informed objective plan, negotiators will have the confidence and power to deal more readily with inevitable surprises. Secondary resources searches tools from the national security arena which manage the collection, analysis, production and delivery of quality intelligence are useful ways for negotiators to enhance their cognitive capabilities.

Intelligence collection strengthens critical thinking and analysis of a negotiation plan. The most critical step in negotiation preparation is to make systematic efforts to formulate the most vital questions and problems about the negotiation. A business intelligence framework helps to formulate the obstacles and weaknesses of a plan used to achieve your negotiation goals.

The gathering, assessment and analysis of relevant information lead to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions. Testing your negotiation dreams against relevant critical data and standards also assist negotiators to recognize and enhance more creative problem solving skills for a negotiation.

Cognitive self-direction, self-correction and self-monitoring of the massive amounts of information that are gathered in a preparation process increase power in a negotiation. Negotiators who “keep their eyes and ears open” know that gathering intelligence is a basic human skill. However, most negotiators are amateurs at it and could use some training to get the most out of their encounters with the world outside the negotiation conference room.

Training around such skills about how to maximize their Internet search activities and an awareness of the legal constraints and the company’s ethical guidelines lead to a more disciplined preparation procedure. Quality intelligence aligned with negotiation goals increase the power for a negotiator.

Through the use of good intelligence gathering skills, the expertise in gaining information enhances strategic leverage and social engagement strategies for a negotiation.

Strategic leverage in an uncertain negotiation situation requires a robust understanding of business intelligence collection. Many experienced negotiators recognize this as the most vital “preparatory” phase of a negotiation when they undertake their “due diligence” to uncover the fundamental needs and goals of their counterparts, for example.

Last week we addressed a framework for gathering that information and this week the focus is on the tools on how to collect intelligence and how to analyze it for the negotiation preparation framework.

Few negotiators would ever pursue negotiation without knowing something about the background and interests of the other players. However, in a rapidly changing and declining economic market, the impulse to bypass rigorous systematic intelligence collection is seductive. Although it is tempting, the pursuit of a negotiation planned on the “back of an envelope” without a systematic challenge of key assumptions or “lore” about what has worked in the past should be avoided.

Good intelligence gathering can also enhance the social engagement skills or emotional and social intelligence required to implement a negotiation strategy. A good plan is only as good as the ability to style switch, influence, and collaborates with others in a negotiation.

Today’s complex markets have created progressively more demand for rigorous insight and cross-cultural social skills in order to creatively problem solve and create sustainable agreements. A successful organizational or individual negotiation plan can only be achieved when there is an integrated approach of analytical, psychological, and social insights and information.

A rigorous strategic planning can bolster a negotiator’s chances of success. Here a few tips for the plan to gather intelligence for your next negotiation.

Law 11 Exercise

1. Analyze the external environment with research about your counterparts, competitors, and industry trends, technological and political trends.

2. Evaluate the external information and secondary research materials to support actionable insight and negotiation strategies to surpass barriers and seize opportunities.

3. Assess the quality of required questions and marshal appropriate resources necessary to collect quality negotiation information to align with your negotiation goals.

Extra credit

For a more comprehensive lesson about the business intelligence process, read “The High Thread Count SWOT: Getting More Value out of a Classic CI Tool,” by Thunderbird Professor Paul Kinsinger.

48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Go to the main menu for the series.

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