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How to be more creative in negotiation

30th November 2017

Creativity, especially creativity in terms of developing your variables, can increase the value available to you in your negotiations. But how can you develop creative solutions in your negotiations? In this article, we will look, firstly, at how to approach your negotiations creatively and, secondly, at more general exercises you can do to improve creativity which you can apply to negotiations.

Understand your counterpart’s business and personal needs better.

By better understanding your counterpart’s business, you can then understand the problems they are facing. This enables you to offer up variables that will help overcome their problems. When preparing your questions as part of your Kaleidoscopic Preparation, think about questions that will help you unlock more information about your counterpart’s business, such as:
“What are your business’ greatest challenges at the moment?”
“What activities are other companies doing that are benefitting your business?”

Similarly, in negotiations it’s not all about the business needs of your counterpart. Sometimes, their personal needs are a ripe opportunity for developing variables in the negotiation, such as their KPI’s. During your Kaleidoscopic Preparation, develop questions that will help you understand your counterpart’s personal needs better, such as:
“ What are you being measured on this year?”
“ How are you doing against your targets this year?”

Once you have a better idea of your counterpart’s business and personal needs, look at developing variables that meet those needs. Look for variables that they perceive as being valuable or important or ideally both.

Sometimes it can be hard to create comprehensive lists of benefits and variables. Here are some tips on being more creative that can help not only in your negotiations but also in other areas.

Ask for help.

Ask somebody you trust to review your list of variables, your stances or your opening offer. Invite them to help you develop more or better elements of your negotiation with you. Avoid a team of people brainstorming as that has been proven to be less productive in coming up with ideas.

Occupy your conscious mind.

Studies indicate that occupying our conscious minds with tasks allows our sub-conscious to work on creative ideas to an ongoing problem. Try doing a Sudoku puzzle or a crossword in between bouts of developing variables to help come up with creative solutions.


Studies have shown that allowing yourself to be primed can help you be more creative. Priming means thinking about small cues and being stimulated in your responses by those small cues. To be more creative when developing variables try thinking about and describing a typical musician or artist. List their behaviours, lifestyle and appearance. Being primed into the frame of mind of creative people can help you be more creative, no matter what the topic is you want to be more creative in.

Change the view.

Change your perspective to help produce more novel solutions to problems. Imagine how somebody else would solve the problem. Think of somebody you know who is a great negotiator and wonder how they would negotiate this particular problem. For example, think about how your boss might solve the problem? What would they do? How would they prepare? What would they say?

Step Into Their Shoes.

When the world becomes too familiar your brain reverts to automatic pilot and stops seeing what is right in front of your eyes. Sometimes, if you have worked with a counterpart for too long, it can be difficult to understand their problems. Look at different problems that your counterpart is facing and wonder how they are going about solving those problems. Truly think and empathise with their problems and develop solutions.

Musical Chairs.

Working in the same team can make teams more friendly but can stifle creative output, according to studies from the University of California. Change your negotiating team regularly, even if it is just getting a different perspective on your negotiations from an external viewpoint.


Further Information