Inventing Options
by Kofi Gumbs on March 18, 2019

I recently read Getting to Yes, which introduced me to the idea of “principled negotiation.” The entire book is worth the read—negotiation tactics apply more broadly than you might initially think. I’ll give you an example!

The third principle

The Wikipedia article linked above includes a nice summary of chapter 4:

The third principle—”Invent options for mutual gain”—is about benefiting both parties that are doing business. This principle aims to help the parties find an option that will impact each party in a positive way, making both sides feel like they did not get taken advantage of during the negotiation. It is important to listen to the other party and not make a decision until both parties feel that they have been heard. Both parties should clearly explain their intentions and what they want out of the conversation.

In a principled negotiation, it’s critical to stay focused on interests. The eventual outcome may not look exactly like you imagine at the start… And that’s OK. If both parties have their interests satisfied, the eventual outcome should be free to change as required.

ABN: Always be negotiating

Last year, I started building a product, unrelated to my work at HubTran. I’d started the prototyping phase but was interested to accelerate my progress. I figured that I would need to leave HubTran to focus full-time on my product. While I’m generally risk-tolerant (in my own assessment), I was hesitant to say the least

During a regular 1-on-1, I mentioned this hesitation to my manager. In that conversation, he rattled off a series of options that I hadn’t considered. I was thinking in terms of fixed outcomes. My manager was thinking in terms of invented options. I was interested in pursuing my product idea. HubTran, like most businesses, is interested in reducing employee churn.

Until that moment, I was focused on the binary outcomes I’d seen before. My manager helped me unfix my mindset to start thinking in terms of invented options. A few weeks later, we decided that I would transition to part-time. This gives me the opportunity to build my product and reduce the risk required to do so—a win-win-win!

Wrapping up

Living in the “inventing options mindset” opens me to opportunities that I would have otherwise missed entirely. There are always nuances and limitations when applying business principles to your personal life. I hope this story helps you discover avenues in which the principle might work in your life.