I was just leafing through the book ‘Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It’ by Chris Voss, and an excerpt from this book has an interesting learning for us all:
‘For more than three decades, Harvard had been the world epicenter of negotiating theory and practice. All I knew about the techniques we used at the FBI was that they worked. In the twenty years I spent at the Bureau we’d designed a system that had successfully resolved almost every kidnapping we applied it to. But we didn’t have grand theories.
Our techniques were the products of experiential learning; they were developed by agents in the field, negotiating through crisis and sharing stories of what succeeded and what failed. It was an iterative process, not an intellectual one, as we refined the tools we used day after day. And it was urgent. Our tools had to work, because if they didn’t someone died’
Needless to say, theoretical discussions come from a fear of getting actions wrong and having to face consequences – an irrationality that is a fundamentally human desire of minimising risk.
And while it is easy to highlight the importance of action and experimentation over theoretical discussions, I’d rather share with you my little system of how to get to it!
- Do, don’t discuss: Experiment. Instead of discussing what could work, just run with one of the plans.
- Take notes: Note down what you did, the results and your inferences.
- Find out what works: Best practices are more relevant and practical than theoretical discussions. Keep them handy.
- Change what’s working: This bit is hard when we usually have a ‘Don’t fix what’s not broken’ mentality. I think its easy to settle in a routine that is working. But there might be a better one, who knows? You might as well look for it.
Before that, Step 0: Get rid of fear