Take a Big-Picture Perspective

21.12.2016 |

Episode #9 of the course Psychological tools and traps in negotiation by George Siedel


Welcome to the ninth lesson of the course. The key message in this lesson: you should always keep in mind a big-picture perspective to avoid becoming lost in the details.

During a negotiation, it is important to keep in mind the big picture even when you are immersed in the details. This is more difficult than it sounds because of what Bazerman and Chugh call “bounded awareness.” (“Decisions Without Blinders,” Harvard Business Review). An important aspect of bounded awareness is that our focus on one aspect of negotiation—say, price—might limit awareness of more important concerns.

An example of bounded awareness is the Monkey Business Illusion. In this video, members of two teams of basketball players, one wearing white shirts and the other wearing black shirts, pass a basketball to fellow team members. You are asked to count the number of passes made by the team wearing white shirts. While you are focused on this task, someone dressed as a gorilla walks to the middle of the two teams, pounds his chest, and walks away. A large percentage of viewers completely miss the gorilla because they are so focused on counting the passes.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is considered by some to be a shopper’s paradise. With thousands of shops that line over sixty covered streets, the Grand Bazaar offers a chance to test your ability to negotiate by haggling over jewelry, furniture, carpets, clothes, leather goods, and many touristy items. When I visited the bazaar, I was told that many buyers become so enthralled by their negotiations within the Grand Bazaar that they overlook the big picture (or Big Gorilla), which is that goods are cheaper outside the Grand Bazaar where the local citizens shop.

There is considerable wisdom in the observations of veteran negotiator Marie-Christine Brochu of the International Air Transport Association: “When you negotiate, you need to always keep in mind the big picture . . . and always come back to it, to avoid the trap of being lost in the details.” (“A Canadian Perspective on Contract Negotiation,” ACC Docket, October, 2012)

The tenth and final lesson emphasizes the importance of looking beyond easily available information when making decisions. The tenth lesson also provides a checklist of nine lessons from this course for your use in future negotiations and other types of decision-making.

Best, George


Recommended book

Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and Skills by George Siedel, pages 82-83


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