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Negotiating Mount Rushmore

Tyler Hall

If you’ve ever had the chance to visit Mount Rushmore it is an amazing sight – four American presidents carved into a solid granite cliff face. It was sculpted using explosives, sledgehammers, and chisels. The explosives were used to clear mass amounts of granite to form the heads. The sledgehammers then defined the main features of the faces and finally the chisels were used to refine the sculpture we see today.

The construction of the sculpture led me to think that as negotiators we should be using a similar approach in constructing elements of our negotiation dialogue. For example you should cover off main and difficult issues/bad news early in a negotiation (using explosives). This may be counterintuitive to some as you may have heard advice that you should agree on the ‘easier’ issues first to gain traction with the other party? This is common advice but may have two negative consequences. By agreeing to ‘easier’ issues you are losing potential variables that you can use to trade against getting main issues that are more important to you. You also may waste a lot of time if, when you finally get to the main or difficult issues, you find out that the other party would have no capacity to be able to address them and hence a deal is impossible.

After using the explosives in disclosing main issues you then can bring out the sledgehammers and resolve other issues. Then grab out your chisel and work on exactly what has been agreed in detail. By having a thorough ‘agree’ step you can avoid a lot of headaches later. Both parties should understand exactly who is doing - what, when and how. This will avoid any misunderstandings or the dreaded ‘deal or scope creep’ that may happen and ultimately both parties should be willing to put the deal into practice.

I hope this illustration may assist you in being more efficient in you negotiations and your deals as solid as granite.


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