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Time is on your side. Or is it?

Published: Dec 06 , 2018
Author: Alan Smith

Despite Facebook telling me I’m a genius because I know what “fastidious” means (it also told me I’m a dead ringer for Justin Timberlake, much to my kids’ amusement), I absolutely recognise my limitations.

One of those is that I am completely unable to predict the future.

You may have read the most recent book by Stephen Hawking, and sadly his last, Brief Answers to the Big Questions. If you haven’t, give it a go. Facebook would be sorry to hear that I only understood about 25% of it, but that 25% was incredibly thought-provoking.

One story that amused me was Mr Hawking’s thought experiment that proved to him that time travel was impossible.

Essentially the Cambridge Don, decided to hold a Time Traveller party at his prestigious college and issue an open invitation to all prospective Time Travellers to attend the party and discuss the subject over Crystal Champagne and fine food.

The trick was, he only issued the invitations weeks after the party had been held and was disappointed (but not surprised) that he was the only one there.

In essence was Hawking was doing was placing a bet on his opinion about the future, and the likelihood of time travel being a possibility and it is what negotiators do all the time.

In many commercial situations, as we are unable to know in all certainty the outcome of an act or lack of the same, we are left with an unsatisfactory method of agreeing any potential outcome.

One solution is to place a bet with our counterparty in an attempt to cover both parties’ views and leave with an outcome both can live with.

One close to home example of this is payment by results (PBR). A client who tells me they are unable to afford our training because they are unconvinced of its efficacy could be met with an offer of paying a nominal fee now and a share of the upside of the results of getting better deals over the next 12 months.

Since we have just published the results of our recent ROI survey giving 13.18 times the course fee within 3 months of the training, that is a bet I would happily take.

Sometimes to negotiate a better result that fulfils both parties’ apparent objectives we need to be more creative about potential solutions and back ourselves in the process.

Time will indeed usually tell.


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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