Can social media make you a better negotiator?
ew research from a multi-disciplinary team presents an innovative social media playbook for complex business negotiations
It’s not often that one comes across a truly novel piece of strategic analysis, but new research from James K. Sebenius, Ben Cook, David Lax, Isaac Silberberg, and Paul Levy is just that. Their extensive and novel new analysis attempts to draw preliminary lessons on how to think of, and use, social media in complex negotiations.
Their essential point is that rather than think of social media only as a risk or nuisance, negotiators should eagerly examine what social platforms suggest about their counterparts and the network around them, just as they would any other available information source. As the authors note, failure to do so “is a stunning blind spot," while adding that "social media can be ethically harnessed to shape the negotiating stage to one’s advantage — or to avoid catastrophe.”
Social media, of course, is not just a new medium — it’s a universe unto itself, with its own rules, codes, and norms, which can seem daunting to an outsider. For too many negotiators, the complexity of these ecosystems leads them to forego mining accounts and their networks for competitive insight. The authors suggest a new paradigm that even experienced social media users can deploy to their advantage:
This new paradigm requires negotiators to update their strategies. Because the digital era is changing every aspect of dealmaking, negotiators need to take a comprehensive, “3-D approach” to understand and prepare for how the process can be disrupted and used. Particularly in today’s hyperconnected, 24/7 world, the reality of negotiation almost always extends beyond primary negotiators to involve other potentially influential parties. Winning strategies must incorporate traditional “at the table” tactics (the 1st dimension), deal design (2nd dimension), and setup moves “away from the table” (3rd dimension) that are essential in shaping outcomes.
In the authors' view, adapting the 3D paradigm (a model that Lax and Sebenius first proposed back in 2003) can enhance negotiating effectiveness in 4 ways:
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