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The People Speak

Published: Sep 14 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

At about the same time as this blog is being published, we are hosting a webinar entitled ‘Negotiating in Uncertain Times’. If you missed it, a recording is available here (password: Uncertain1)

During the sign-up process, we asked participants if uncertainty was affecting their business. Most of the audience didn’t comment; I suppose their interest in attending the webinar with its very transparent title was evidence enough of the problem. Those who did comment made some interesting observations.

The most common sentiment was that ‘business unusual is the new normal’, as one respondent excellently phrased it. This is more profound than it might first appear. Unpredictable fluctuations in otherwise stable situations have always been the order of the day. What we are recognising now is that the rate of change plus the extremity of change has become ‘the new normal’, a phenomenon we call Hyperuncertainty. This can produce a catatonic reaction. Negotiators become mesmerised by unexpected events piling up on top of each other – Brexit plus Trump plus cybersecurity breaches plus Hurricane Irma plus Kim Jong-Un and so on. Our participants commented that ‘our (commercial) agreements …….need to account for potential uncertainty and volatility’, ‘customers are pressured on crisis not to make decisions or to make them slow, or get very unreasonable’, ‘there is disruption in our marketplace with the way we do business moving from Capex to Opex’, and so on.

Clearly, these comments demonstrate a problem, and we hope that offering some ideas and guidance in the webinar will be helpful. Other participants suggested that uncertainty had not affected their business – yet! One said ‘not yet, but technology changes will impact all of us at some point’. Another echoed this;  ‘Not more than the other people around. Digital Transformation will change everything’. Businesses have always been prone to disruptive technology, but as the pace of disruption increases the ability to react reduces.

One interesting strand of thought was that Hyperuncertainty might require personal behavioural changes. One participant voiced it thus ‘I’m a very straight forward person and I find that this might not always be the right way. I find myself needing tools to deal with certain non-desirable behaviours’.  Having the right skill set to deal with uncertainty and its effect both on our thinking and that of our negotiating partners does become increasingly important, and the days of being able to ‘wing it’ are numbered.

Finally, I was drawn to a comment from a respondent in the Balkans. ‘Uncertainty!?! We live uncertainty for decades….. Well, on daily basis in a different way. What does uncertainty give in return? Bigger agility, higher creativity and flexibility. Also gives fear but makes people more brave and bold!’. I just love the sentiment that every challenge is an opportunity. And surely for negotiators, the route to success is to be equipped with the skills to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves.

Enjoy the webinar and please keep your comments and views flowing.



About the author:

Stephen White
My background is sales and marketing. I read Law at University and worked for 2 major packaging companies for 13 years in sales and sales management. I joined John McMillan and Scotwork in 1984. For the next 25 years together with our colleagues we delivered training and consulting, built the global business and developed the Scotwork product portfolio.

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Butcher, Baker, Deal Maker!

I have no political aspirations whatsoever. Never have had. Didn’t even want to stand for the school council, till the teacher told me I’d get out of lessons and free chocolate biscuits. I think to want to be a politician reveals deep and tragic personality flaws. Of the ‘please like me’, type. I’m sure that many start with high ideals, which get knocked out of them by the sheer boredom of endless meetings and discussions about planning permission and parking permits.

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