Creativity Outside the Box

Second negotiation for MBA631 was also pretty simple. After a short discussion [literally 10 minutes of the 25 we had been allotted], we determined that the minimum price she could accept was more than than the maximum price I was authorized to offer, and without too much disappointment [figuring this was the point of the exercise] reported our impasse to the instructor.

Imagine my surprise when only a third of the class had come to the same impasse. Sure, some of the teams’ agreements were “invalid” as they had violated the terms of the case materials. Sure, technically, we had been right; there isn’t room for an agreement in a negative bargaining zone. But somehow, some of the pairs had come to novel solutions of compelling mutual benefit.

I was ashamed. I, the graphic designer, the “independent creative” had been singularly un-creative. I learned two very significant lessons:

  • Creativity is an indispensable tool. It shouldn’t be kept in my back pocket, it should be out in my hand, in use, at all times. How much is lost by simply accepting “impasses” at face value in all areas of our lives; difficult relationships, bureaucratic requirements, schedule conflicts, etc.? How many of those “impasses” might not be impasses at all if we just applied a little creativity–looked a the situation from a different perspective, questioned some assumptions, took a risk?
  • The efficacy of creativity is often contingent on trust. In the debrief, we talked a lot about looking beyond BATNAs and reservation prices to interests and values–the stuff way closer to people’s hearts that is the reason they ask for what they ask for and behave they way they do. But precisely because they are closer to our hearts, we often play those interests and values closer to our chests. We feel vulnerable exposing the deeper reasons for our opinions/desires/edicts, but choosing to do so anyway creates space, loosens things up, allows creativity to wiggle into the loopholes and create compromise and even mutual benefit in situations that otherwise might end up in “impasse.”
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