The difference we deliver from our competition in one word

The real problem.

Millions have attended “status quo” negotiation training seminars and workshops. The typical format is one in which attendees show up for a specified number of days, sit through a lecture or two, listen to a number of anecdotes, engage in some activities which may include role-plays, work through one or more case studies, fill out a feedback form, and receive some materials that they can take back with them. If their company paid for it, everyone checks the box next to the word “trained.” Everything is promptly forgotten because it rarely has any real world application. This applies to training in many fields, but it’s a staple in negotiation training. What’s the ROI from such training programs? How does it actually translate to moving the negotiations the company is involved in forward? How does it help people see which agreements to enter into — and build these — and which ones to walk away from — and end these? What is taught? How are people trained? How much of it can be applied in their very next negotiation — perhaps with an adversary who has no scruples with alternating between making threats and demands on the one hand, and telling you how eager they are to build a long term relationship with you, on the other?

The real world of negotiation is a pressure-filled one. It’s where you observe and experience the best, the worst, and everything in between, exhibited by human beings driven by a “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM) mindset. To them, you, your company, and this negotiation are often only a means to an end. A few may be honest enough to tell you “This is business, not personal.” Some make threats and demands. Others flatter you and behave in very cordial ways. Some may even be very deferential. But make no mistake, they are in it to get what they want out of it. (You should be in it for the same reason — by moving their efforts forward. That’s not a minor difference!) 

Faced with the real world of negotiation, everything you learnt during your training event can seem like a joke. After decades spent in the trenches coaching big and small clients, I see the world of negotiation from a unique perspective. So, I’d like to begin by asking, “What are you being trained in? How you are being trained? Can you apply it in the bare knuckles world of negotiation — and get what you want from each one? If you can’t get what you want, what is such training costing you? What is it costing your company? Are you being hammered from all sides — your own team, those you negotiate with, your competitors, and even middle men of various shapes and forms?”

Negotiation is not for the faint hearted. In this high-pressure environment, it’s possible to regret an offer you accept or make, immediately after you’ve accepted or made it. Indeed, it’s not only possible, but this is exactly what often happens. As I stated, regret follows immediately. Millions of parties to a contract wake up – soon after it has been signed and is being enforced – to discover that the terms were disastrous for them. Renegotiating it appears all but impossible. Why didn’t they see it as they were negotiating? Why didn’t they clearly see what they were agreeing to? Why did they end up saying “yes” to something that set their efforts back rather than move these forward?

It may help to start by writing out – yes, with a pen and a piece of paper – your definition of the word “negotiation.” If you have previously attended negotiation training, don’t rely on anything you were taught. Just write out how you would define “negotiation”. If you negotiate as part of a larger team, or many larger teams, go around and ask your team members to do the same thing. Ask as though you were looking for help and most people will readily oblige you — even if you receive some strange looks or have to endure a few jokes at your expense. Compile all the answers onto a single sheet of paper and compare them. How many different answers did you get? I know that every answer will be different. 

With so many different answers, what is the real problem holding you and your team back? The definitions you will be staring at will typically contain words and phrases such as; “give and take,” “mutually beneficial agreement,” “win-win,” “compromise,” “get what we want while giving away as little as possible,” “meet in the middle,” “relationship,” “bargaining,” “trading,” “leverage,” “power,” “bargaining strength,” and the like. Now, I ask again, “What is the real problem here?” Whether you are veteran, a novice, or somewhere in between, you can readily see that this is a simple question. You’re merely being asked to define something you engage in, regularly. You’ve been negotiating all your life. How come people struggle with it? How come so few members of the same team share the same definition? And most importantly, how come so few can see and identify what they’re up against? This is of such great importance that I ask you to let me approach this from another direction. What is required in negotiation for it to be considered a negotiation? The key word here is, “required.” 

How do you see negotiation?

How we see a person or what we see in a person immediately provokes an emotional reaction within us. This impacts our subsequent decisions, actions, judgments, and behavior to him or her. The same occurs with an attractive suit or dress, a house we’d like to buy or build, a job or career, a city we’d like to live in or move away from, an event we observe, a memory from the past, something we imagine in the future, etc. Our perceptions drive our choices and decisions, in powerful ways, both seen and unseen.

Your personal and unique experience of negotiation shapes how you see it. (This is why you got so many different definitions above.) But it shapes even more. What do I mean? Well, how you see negotiation determines how you negotiate. That, of course, is not unique to negotiation. Not in the least. How you see love, family life, professional success, achievement, happiness, peace of mind, etc., determines how you pursue or engage all these human realities. It’s part of being human. It’s how we are wired. In a way, I become what I see. You become what you see because you either desire and pursue what you see, or become averse to what you see and seek to avoid or eliminate it. I’d like you to stay with that for a while: How I see negotiation determines how I negotiate. Definitions are important because, by a process of abstraction, it helps you clearly see the reality the definition refers to. This is why I asked you to define “negotiation” and to ask your team members to define it.

We’d like to propose our unique way of seeing negotiation to you.
How we at Camp Negotiation Systems see negotiation is very different from how the competition sees it. There are some similarities, of course, but the differences are deep and stark.

How do we see negotiation? Simply expressed, we see it as a learned human performance event that can be both mastered and managed using a valid System of Negotiation

There’s a lot to unpack in that simple statement. I’ll unpack it below to help you discover, see, and make a judgment as to whether how we see it actually conforms to the reality of negotiation (i) as negotiation actually is, and (ii) as you and your team members encounter it, daily, in the environments in which you negotiate. To help you see how we see it, I’d like to give you a guided extended tour of the world of negotiation by showing you its inner structure.

What’s a “learned human performance event”?

A learned human performance event is one defined by principles, rules, and laws specific and inherent to it, which must be consciously learnt because they are not intuitive or apparent. Mastery of such events is predicated on, but not limited to, conscious knowledge of these principles, rules, and laws. Though it may not initially appear that way, we live in a world filled with such events. Indeed, we rely on the mastery that others have achieved of many such specific events in order to live our lives safely, happily, comfortably, and with dignity. Some such events include flying, driving, various martial arts, various sports, trading or investing in financial markets, making movies, constructing buildings, the training received by the military (including but of course not limited to elite military units), cooking, delivering a baby through a C-section, performing a complicated surgical procedure, writing a book, and many more.

The principles, rules, and laws that define each such event comes “built in” as part of the reality of that particular event. That’s why they define the event, and are specific to it. If you want to perform the event safely and exceptionally well, it’s in your best interest to obey them and work with them, rather than against them. Why? Because they exist and act — whether or not you are aware of them, or obey them. It’s important to see that reality as a whole contains many such principles, rules, and laws. Gravity does not require your awareness or agreement, to act on you. Neither do the laws that govern the flow of electricity depend on you saying “yes.” Similarly, the laws of demand and supply do not depend on your saying “okay” for them to act. Pilots, electricians, and investors in the financial markets must take these into consideration. 

As the examples above show, the existence of such principles, rules and laws is not even peculiar to learned human performance events. negotiation. It’s shared by all bodies of organized human knowledge. In numerous fields of human knowledge, popular textbooks bear the title “Principles of __________”. Flying, open-heart surgery, and sporting events reveal their existence – which in turn merely testifies to the “inner structure” shared by all learned human performance events. Principles, rules, and laws are part and parcel of reality.

A definition that’s also a principle.

Negotiation possesses rules, laws, and principles that define it and are inherent to it. One such principle is contained in its definition: Negotiation is the human effort to reach agreement between two or more parties with all parties having the right to veto.

The right to veto is the right to say “no,” to say “I don’t agree.” It’s not a right you or I give to others, or they to us. Each human being on the planet has the right to say “no” if he/she is negotiating with another person or group. The right to veto is one of the principles that defines the event of negotiation.

Compare this definition with your own, and those you received from others. Did these contain the right to veto? Earlier on, I’d also asked “What is required in negotiation for a negotiation to be considered one?” What is required is “principle.” A principle is a basic or essential quality or element determining intrinsic nature or characteristic behavior. If you disobey the principles that govern manned flight, you’re in danger of crashing. Same with negotiation. Ignorance of the principles, rules and laws of negotiation means that you may be breaking them without knowing it – and reaping the consequences in the form of reaching agreements you ought to walk away from, reaching unprofitable agreements, reaching agreements that fall apart and end up in litigation or much worse things, or having your negotiations repeatedly stalled or derailed by forces or people you could have seen and dealt with, effectively.

Mastering such an event signifies mastery of performing the event.

We’ve all been negotiating all our personal and professional lives. We’ve also experienced many successes and failures. These negotiations have taken place in our personal and professional lives. Many of us have also been driving, cooking, and writing emails and memos for a very long time. But let’s step back for a moment and examine how we humans end up doing what we do, in the manner we habitually do them.

Does the fact that we spend extended amounts of time, and lots of energy on something mean we do it as well as the best — as well as the masters? Experience shows us this is not the case. Typically we reach a plateau. We get to an “okay” level of doing it. Then, we stop consciously learning to improve. Let’s face the fact that life is much more than any single event or reality. We have bills to pay, places to go to, deadlines to keep, families to take care of, hobbies to cultivate, and projects that we haven’t even started on yet. Typically, we get into the habit of doing something in a particular way, and stick with it — whether it’s driving a car, ironing a shirt, or negotiating a deal. Rarely do we stop to reflect on why a particular thing we say or do works, or why it worked in one negotiation but failed in others. Even more rarely do we reflect on the underlying reasons of the failures and successes of other people.

The simple truth is that for us to engage in doing something in a reflective way — and learn from our successes and failure as well as those of others — that particular human reality must be very important to us. For us to master something, it must be important enough to consciously and consistently get better and better at it. Who does things in this way? Well, literally, just about anyone. Professional sports men and women come to mind, readily. So do doctors, lawyers, engineers, carpenters, plumbers and scientists. Every serious professional goes about improving, learning, and growing in this way. The whole concept of apprenticeships and internships is built on this underlying acknowledgment that conscious reflective practice is essential for mastery. It’s also how we drive, swim, cook, browse the internet, and use our smart phones. When we do something exceptionally well, it’s a sign we have mastered it. This is borne out by our everyday experience.

Is negotiation mastery supremely important?

We negotiate constantly, but we don’t see mastering negotiation as important — to our happiness, financial well being, professional success, and the joy and serenity in our relationships and interactions. We negotiate in ways we have been taught in the workshops I referred to at the beginning of this piece, or in ways we have learnt through experience and observation. Typically, this is a process of trial and error. Sometimes what we do works, and at other times, it doesn’t. Often, we don’t even see the connection between what we said/did, how we said/did it, and the final outcome. I’ve observed that when things don’t work out, most people are quick to blame the other guy. Interestingly, we expect and demand that our doctors, pilots, lawyers, engineers, chauffeurs and accountants master their various callings. Indeed, engaging in certain events without mastery can be a criminal act. If we discover that a person we hire to help us in something has not mastered that particular thing, we often seek a replacement. But negotiation – which puts our jobs, careers, fortunes, companies and happiness and flourishing on the line – is not seen as important even to master.

Most of us don’t see negotiation as our primary calling. We see it that way because it’’s true. We are engineers, sales professionals, CEOs, entrepreneurs and technicians. But the fact is that our jobs, careers, businesses and lives are often held aloft by the agreements we enter into. Whether it’s a new job, new role, new project, new house, or new client, or whether it’s reaching agreements with people who are already part and parcel of our personal and professional lives, we are constantly negotiating — even though negotiation is not our primary calling. Can you hire someone to constantly negotiate on your behalf? I’m afraid not. Some of your personal and professional affairs simply cannot be “outsourced” to another — regardless of his or her professional expertise or level of mastery. Many of your negotiations certainly can’t. Often, you must negotiate with others to get what you want. People negotiate with you to get what they want. It is what it is.

This is why reaching a plateau or relying on a seat of the pants approach in negotiation is dangerous. Too much hangs in the balance and you’re taking too much risk with the outcomes of your negotiations. If practice alone makes perfect, we don’t have to spend a moment mastering negotiation. Why? We can just keep doing what we’ve always done. We humans are simply not wired to expend huge amounts of energy on things we habitually do. But doing what we’ve always done ends up delivering to us the results we’ve always gotten. It’s not just that we sow what we reap. What we’re reaping today is what we sowed in the past. What we will reap tomorrow is what we are sowing today and now.

How is negotiation mastered?

If negotiation is a learned human performance event, you must master it the way all learned human performance events are mastered. How are they mastered? By the repeated perfect practice of a valid system that builds mastery. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice does. You must discover and see your mistakes. Then, you must correct them. You must do so consciously. You must also know why something is a mistake, and how to correct it. Then, you must solidify these into habits through repeated perfect practice. These habits ultimately stem from one source. Before I show you what that source is, let me show you why it’s essential to use valid systems. Both words are important — “valid” and “systems.”

What is a “System”?

The word system is defined in many ways. Naturally, this stems from what is being referred to, and how the word is being used. As coaches, this is how we define it: A system is the perfect alignment of rules, laws, and principles, within a valid structure, that enables the user to correctly identify and solve the problems produced in a learned human performance event.

By its very nature, all learned human performance events produce (or throw up) problems that threaten to stop the progress of the event towards a successful outcome. A doctor must know exactly what to do if a patient goes into shock during an operation, as must a pilot if he encounters turbulence at 30,000 feet.

It’s not enough for a valid System to not contradict the rules, laws, and principles that define the particular event. It must necessarily help its users see, identify and resolve all the problems that are encountered in the course of a particular human performance event. Otherwise, there’s no difference between a system and a correct theoretical body of knowledge. Systems deal with both “knowing” and “doing,” and not simply either one or the other. In a learned human performance event, your system must protect and guide you, in real time. Else, it’s either not a system, or not a valid one.

A negotiator must know what to do when he encounters power and bullying, manipulation and lying, demands and threats, feigned niceness and respect, ultimatums, baggage from past unfavorable interactions, a state of bitter conflict, and so much more. At any point in the negotiation, the negotiator (or team of negotiators) must see what is happening, see what is holding the negotiation back, see what must happen next, and know how to go about making that happen. Regardless of twists, turns, and hidden bumps of every kind, a negotiator cannot fail to see what is happening now, what must happen next, and how to make that happen.

What a system is not.

A system is not a method or process. These are predetermined sequences of actions/action steps designed in a particular order to bring about or achieve a particular outcome or result. If you do a, b, c and d in a certain fixed order, you will get x. But you may have do a and then b, and then c, and then d. Negotiation is far too unpredictable and complex for that. This unpredictability and complexity however does not translate to unmanageability.

A system is also not a bag of tactics, tricks, or techniques. A tactic is defined as “any human activity designed and executed to take advantage of a perceived weakness in an adversary.” We do not believe that taking advantage of others is the way to build ethical and profitable agreements that don’t fall apart. On the contrary, that’s the shortest route to ensure they will fall apart, blow up in your face, and result in much chaos, frustration, and grief. 

Why is it important to see that a system is not a bag of tactics? Because tactics always fail when they encounter principles. No tactic can overcome a principle. If something is a principle, no human effort of any kind can overcome it. Any such “victory” over principle is only apparent. Sooner or later, reality reasserts its primacy. In negotiation both the “sooner” and the “later” can be readily observed.

Valid vs. Invalid Systems of Negotiation.

An invalid System necessarily contradicts the principles that define the particular human reality it is designed for, and employed in. If the knowledge and information used to build the system does not conform to reality, it means it is inaccurate and any system it is used to build will necessarily be an invalid one.

A valid system is built on the rules, laws and principles that define the event. Invalid systems are invalidated precisely because they contradict the rules, laws, and principles that define the event they are meant to be used in, or make into a principle what is not a principle. A valid system must not, at any point, contradict these rules, laws and principles. Invalid ones do. A valid system must not make into a principle that which is not one. Invalid ones do

Many schools of thought and approaches to negotiation believe and teach that compromise, trading, rapport, trust, and relationship are “required” in negotiation. To us, “required” means these must occur every time in order for a negotiation to take place. “Required” means these must be of the very essence of negotiation as a human reality. We disagree. We have disagreed for 30 years and produced unmatched results. The choice is not between “build a relationship” and “destroy a relationship.” Just don’t focus on what cannot be predetermined. For example, trust is something built over time. It germinates, grows, blooms, and flourishes – when tended to with care.

In negotiation, invalid systems always disintegrate when it is put into practice, or in the face of pressure and what is encountered. 

Who we are, what we do, and how we deliver it.

We pride ourselves — innumerable satisfied clients say as much — for coaching the world’s only valid System of Negotiation. Our coaching is not a series of pep talks or feel good conversations. We don’t pump you up. We provide the coaching support you require to use a valid System that keeps you safe, focused, and that delivers laser like guidance at every moment.

How do we define coaching? The effort to train intensively with detailed instruction, frequent demonstration, and repeated practice for an important human performance event. 

We are coaches, not consultants. As coaches, we jump into the trenches, and remain there with you — until you reach the agreement you seek, or reach a point where we both see an agreement is not possible, now. We take our coaching responsibilities very serious. We’ve worked with novice and veteran negotiators alike — and created “aha moments” for both. We build your teams negotiation’s DNA and your organization’s negotiation culture. We leave nothing to chance because we know you won’t feel safe gambling with your careers and businesses.

Our coaching foundation was laid and built by our Founder, Jim Camp. During his lifetime, he was regarded by many as the world’s #1 Negotiation Coach. We have coached billions of dollars worth of deals in more than a dozen industries, on every continent. People from more than 24 countries have enrolled in our one-of-a-kind courses to negotiation mastery. Our single-minded focus on the needs of our clients has inspired us to continually come out with product offerings based on the incredible diversity of the personal circumstances and situations of those we coach.

Those who coach you are within reach 24/7/365.

What delivers this calm confidence, authority and effectiveness?

Repeated perfect practice builds a distinct mindset that is characteristic of users of the Camp Negotiation Management System. Our System of Negotiation imparts this mindset to each of its users. Perfect practice makes perfect — via the System-built, system-led, and system-driven mindset. 

Coaching helps you discover and see the existing weaknesses in your mindset (and those of your team members — both individually and collectively) and provides you the opportunity and the opportunity and the means to fix them. With continued perfect practice, you acquire an updated mindset. This enables you see the reality of negotiation for what it is, and see the realities driving each negotiation you are involved in. You will then be in a position to use this same mindset whether you are negotiating with a prospect, client, spouse, child, boss or anyone else.

What does this mindset deliver to you?

A number of things: Clarity, control, effectiveness in decision making, and confidence — as an individual or as a globally distributed team. Everybody is on the same page, at all times, seeing the same thing — in relation to what is happening now, what must happen next, and how to bring that about.

Why is this system-built, system-led, and system-driven mindset indispensable?

Because the world of negotiation can be a brutal place. It is often – but by no means always an environment – in which you must build agreements that do not fall apart and that move your efforts forward – with those who bully, manipulate, or deceive. It’s a place where every trick and tactic will be thrown at you. You’ll encounter power games, threats, ultimatums, demands, charm, subservience, play acting, feigned niceness, and more. You’ll negotiate with those who are playing one game but are pretending to be playing another. You will also negotiate with those with tunnel vision, those who want to dominate the conversation, the indecisive and fearful, ineffective decision makers of all stripes, and even those who have no idea what they are looking for from a particular negotiation. You will meet those who do and do not take responsibility for their decisions and are not accountable to anyone. You will encounter the entire spectrum of human beings who engage in voluntary exchange, who interact with one another, and who have relationships with one another. With a valid System to guide and guard you, you are safe and have exquisite clarity, at all times. Without one, you’re exposing yourself to much needless and grave risk. We do not wish to suggest that you will only meet the worst of the worst. On the contrary, you will also come across incredibly focused and disciplined folks. Some of those people can be very demanding. If they don’t perceive the same degree of effectiveness from you, they will not do business with you. They are not going to be willing to shoulder that same kind of risk.

Whatever you encounter and wherever you negotiate, meet that world as it is, and meet those people as they are. You have no right to expect anyone to play fair and square or indeed to play in any way you want them to. You cannot wish that everyone you negotiate with will be calm, focused, disciplined and effective people. It is never going to happen.

Which is why we have renamed ourselves.

The difference we bring is our valid System and how it ensures that you master and manage the event of negotiation. On account of this unique difference that separates us from everything out there in the world of negotiation training and coaching, and keeping in view this singular way in which we view and approach the world of negotiation, and how we coach individuals, teams and organizations to view and approach that world, we are proud to announce our name change from Camp Negotiation Institute to Camp Negotiation Systems. It’s a name that more clearly captures what we do, and how we do it. Hopefully, you have a clear picture of why we changed it, and what we imply by it. Simply put, it’s because we coach you to master and use a valid system of negotiation to calmly and confidently manage your negotiation.

It can be used in any and every negotiation you are involved in. It can be used regardless of whether you are the only person negotiating on your side of the table, or if you have 8 other team members who are dispersed across 3 continents. Our system and our coaching is designed for the real world. It was not born in a classroom or training room. It was built in the real world and designed to help you build agreements that last the distance in that world.

Our Founder started the effort 3 decades ago. We’re proud to keep the flag flying high as we step up to the plate in 2015 and beyond.

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