Can’t we just get along?

August 5, 2014By Industry Intuition, Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in Healthcare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

February/March 2014

Is the art of effective negotiation, collaboration, cooperation, and compromise lost forever? That question was posed by a fellow passenger seated adjacent to me during a recent flight. The question is one that I have struggled with — especially last October as Congress squabbled and ultimately stood firm on their polarized principles rather than deciding a course of action that would result in a positive outcome for the American people.

So as the flight continued, this passenger shared some of his views on techniques to find common ground. And, it may surprise you to learn of the real-life example he chose to share.

Remote Possibilities

It all began with the television remote. The passenger described the circumstances of the conflict between his two young children (ages five and six) as they began to argue about their television show preferences and who had "authority" to choose what to watch. The father, a successful businessman and well-practiced negotiator, stepped into the fray. Sitting both kids down face-to-face, he began posing some simple questions to each child:

  1. What’s the big deal?
  2. What do you consider fair?
  3. How could we work this out?
  4. What is a possible settlement?

And finally, he offered this potential outcome if they could not come to a resolution: "If you can’t agree on something you will both go without television."

Compromise means to give up some demands and agree on something less than what was originally wanted. If we look closely, we will see embedded in this simple word another more compelling word: "promise." I believe the art of negotiation and good honest dialogue around a topic with passionate adherents on either side should end with a shared promise. And, simply put, a promise is to give your word about something or guarantee that you will do whatever you are saying you will do.

So what was the promise that this passenger’s young children agreed to abide by? Well, it began with an agreement to share. And a commitment to take turns selecting the television show to watch together and becoming the "owner" of the remote during their assigned turn. And, according to my newfound passenger friend, it worked.

Competitive Culture

Business in today’s fiercely competitive market is fastpaced and uncertain. And, too often instead of working cooperatively and collaboratively to grow market share or sales of a product, organizations are content splitting the pie. And at the end of the day either the retailer or manufacturer feel they "lost" to the other.

The best approach requires that both sides roll up their sleeves and work to truly identify growth opportunities. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to increase the size of the overall pie? In other words, if manufacturers and retailers work together to shape the message and promotional strategy, to develop shelf placement rationale, to effectively attract new shoppers and navigate purchases, and to execute at retail as promised, then the overall return on investment will likely be much larger.

Rather than viewing negotiation through the eyes of rivals, create a culture of open and honest collaborative innovation.

Common Ground

The art of collaboration may not be lost after all. By collaborating and allocating the right resources to the right programs, both retailers and manufacturers can better influence shopper behavior and gain a competitive advantage. In the same way, wholesalers and their customers can find common ground. Something they can both agree to and make a promise to abide by.

That’s cooperation. And it definitely needs to find its way back into American business, government, communities, and homes.

I promise to do my part to make that a reality.

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