You want to say ” We have a problem Houston”, but what if the problem IS Houston?

In this case, the problem is with negotiation , a skill that has enormous importance to all of us. Failed negotiations in history have resulted in the death of multitudes of people, and you may have known some of them. Many of these failures were avoidable. On a smaller more personal scale. anytime someone wants a decision from you, or you want a decision from someone, you are negotiating, whether you call it by that name that or not. 

Getting back to the title of this post,  Houston refers to Harvard Law. They are viewed as THE authority in the realm of negotiation. Getting to Yes  (Fisher, Ury and Patton) , all Harvard professors, is THE authoritative work and has been for some time. Even if you haven’t read it, you have been influenced by it. Have you heard of   win-win? Does it sound like a fine idea to you? If so, you are gravely mistaken, in my opinion.

  I went to the conference referenced by Jim Camp in the paragraphs in italics below. His words about it may sound harsh to you, but I happen to agree with him.

I was honored to be a part of the Harvard Negotiation and Leadership Mastery Conference of 2012. I came away with some strong impressions.

I have never been more committed to getting out system to the world. After seeing and listening and absorbing what is considered the absolute word on negotiations I am strongly motivated to challenge at every turn the compromise based rhetoric that passes as the holy grail of negotiation. It is so wrong and has failed so many in so many ways it has been impossible in the past for me to understand how it can continue to be out there. Then I realize what I am learning about the “Backfire Effect” of brain function from neuroscience and the deep-pocketed unbelievable strength and resources of Harvard that it will take my grandchildren’s generation to fix the damage the well intentioned from Harvard and other higher learning institutions have done.

Ross Perot once said America has forgotten how to negotiate. This is truer today than ever. It is amazing how this came about. The Railway Labor Act was the beginning of the end of negotiation talent in America. Higher Institutions began training lawyers in collective bargaining, and business schools began training business leaders in collective bargaining and low and behold collective bargaining is negotiations. Sad but true.

I responded with  a comment to this post on Linkedin. Before reading it,  keep it mind that there were a lot of very successful people presenting at the conference. So is it an accident that they are so successful? Certainly not. Many of them make no claims to being negotiation experts. They were entrepreneurs and business leaders. They have amazing stories. They wanted to teach us something that we might be able to use to be leaders and negotiators. They had slides and gave pointers about how to be successul. They were inspiring. I enjoyed them all. I even posted the pointers that Steve Stoute listed yesterday. he was my favorite – very cool. He wore red high top sneakers.  I know that is not cool to have a favorite who you think is very cool, but whatever. 😉 Tony Robbins was also there, and he led us all in group exercises that were very fun.

Maybe Jim Camp was the least glitzy presenter of them all.  He openly disagreed with everyone on the panel discussion. People cheered at one point when the moderator interrupted him and asked another person on the panel to speak. These are supposedly heavy hitters and they have the audience  feeling sorry for them when Jim Camp disagrees with them. He kept talking about a system of negotiation that he has developed that can help you to improve your ability to negotiate. He didn’t even have time to outline it, but having a system did differentiate him from the other presenters.  They didn’t claim to have a system of negotiation. When asked by the audience for help with negotiation issues, they began talking about leverage. Basically, they were talking about how to use power to get what you want. So easy for them to say – they are powerful people with powerful clients. They can scare people. Ellen Zucker thought she scared people because they thought she was a superior litigator so they didn’t want to get beat up in court.  Robert Burnett ended his presentation with a story about how he punished someone who he felt had betrayed him in a deal by making sure he got that person fired years later. Is that something you want to learn?

Jim seemed to have a sense that the panel was failing the audience because he asked us, ” How as a panel are we failing you right now”  A question right out of his system.

You can see it on this website. The panel discussion should be available there soon.

So I responded to Jim’s post on LinkedIn:

They ( Havard) teach fluff ( in the realm of negotiation). When is that dangerous? When someone is trying to hit you with something harder than fluff. But fluff is nicer to lay your head down and sleep on. More fun to bounce up and down on too. a la Tony Robbins. Waking up is not easy, and even harder when you don’t even know you are dreaming. So why are they successful then? I keep thinking of the movie the Matrix, as long as everyone is duped into the version of reality that Madison Avenue wants you to have, than the fluff masters are going to be successful. They can point to that ‘success’ and ask you why you would want to take the red pill.

 Am I also a victim of the backfire effect? I am student of Jim Camp after all.

If you think  so, please comment.


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