Well… while I do love to be right, I like it more when I can fit things into nice neat little boxes. The Microsoft/Yahoo skirmish is playing out well for me in this way as we circle back around to a failure on the part of Microsoft to perform proper Information Gathering from the Five Fundamental Skills. Scott Mortiz posits that Jerry Yang simply wants to know that he’s going to have a position of power within a combined organization, and that this is what is keeping Jerry from accepting Microsoft’s offer. If that’s really the case, and Microsoft would’ve learned through a complete information gathering process that this is what Jerry really wanted, it’s amazing what might have been avoided in the last month.
The truth is that we all tend to forget that information gathering is a two-step process. First, you have to identify your own needs and wants. You have to figure out what you can live with and what you can give up. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you have to go through the same identification of needs/wants for your opponent. This is never as simple as asking. It’s rare that a lot of folks go through the full information gathering process themselves and even if they did, they probably won’t tell you what they discovered.
This is where your abilities as a negotiator can really shine – plying the information out of the other side takes persistence, time and skill (and a little luck, too). You have to ask questions, sometimes multiple times. You have to listen to the answers given and the answers avoided. And through it all, you have to be able to push aside your preconceptions of what you believe they want so that you’re receptive to what they really want.
Have you ever asked yourself what I want by writing this blog? Have you figured out that I keep asking questions of you because I want to try to figure out what you want? What’s the problem we both have? Well, the most significant barrier we have is the lack of communication connectivity. I write, you read. It’s one-sided whereas successful communication requires a two-way street. So what’s been my response so far? I take guesses. I try to write about things I think you’ll find interesting (and those that I find interesting to write about, too). Sometimes I get a hit, sometimes not. But I have noticed that when I responded to skribit, for example, interest in the issue was evident. In other words, bi-directional communication worked when I listened to what you wanted and gave it to you.
The same could work for Microsoft… and what’s so interesting is how easy the “fix” can be once you know what the desires are. All you have to do is apply the Five Fundamental Skills.