What: Introduction to Seth Freeman’s IFORESAWIT Negotiation Framework.
Why: Negotiations are 90% preparation, and this is one of the best preparation tools available today.
Learning from Professor Seth Freeman at NYU’s Stern School of Business was a treat. Smart, witty, and kind, Seth kept all us MBA students engaged in the classroom and seemed to be just as happy having a beer with us at Half Pint on W4th afterwards whenever he could afford the time (as he was also busy teaching students uptown at Columbia University). We are sharing his IFORESAWIT negotiation framework here simply because it is one of the most thorough, memorable, and effective negotiation preparation frameworks available today. If you’re curious, you can Google his name to read of his many accolades and other resources he’s generously made available.
- Each letter in the mnemonic follows a loose order, though you can jump around.
- It can be used profitably in even 10-15 minutes, although more preparation is almost always better.
- It helps you articulate: (1) what you each really want and why, (2) negotiation context, (3) creative thinking, (4) empathy, (5) alternatives to agreement, and (6) targets and priorities.
- It is thorough and will feel like too much for some, but it is not exhaustive.
- Interests. Mine, hers, ours. Why do we each want what we say we want? Rank the answers in order of importance, including intangible interests (e.g., face-saving).
- Factual Research. Knowledge counts. What are the market prices? What do industry experts say? What published information is there? The other person? What is the history of the relationship? Cultural norms? Legal constraints? Err on the side of exhaustive learning.
- Options. – Brainstorm possible deal terms. Think of solutions that might satisfy each side’s interests. Don’t critique until you’ve generated at least six for each topic you wish to discuss. Then review and refine your options and select the one(s) you feel would be your first preference.
- Reactions and Responses. Do this last. Once you develop offer(s) using the rest of the mnemonic, practice proposing your offer(s) to the other negotiator and try predicting her reactions to your proposal and to the situation generally. Then consider how you might respond.
- Empathy and Ethics. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Speak or write a paragraph in his voice about the situation. Empathizing is perhaps the hardest and most important task. A related concern is the ethical and spiritual dimension.
- Setting and Scheduling. (a) Where will you negotiate? By phone? By letter? In person? (b) When will you negotiate? Before something else happens? After? Why? Timing can be crucial.
- Alternatives to Agreement. If there’s no deal, what will you do instead? What will she? Try to improve your alternatives with research. Rank yours; which is your best alternative? Your worst? Rank hers. Alternatives matter.
- Who. Who can influence the outcome of the talks? Is there someone else who would be better to deal with instead? If you reach an impasse? Who do you each answer to? What do they want? Who else should you involve in the process? Learn as much as you appropriately can about them.
- Independent Criteria. What objective standards can you appeal to so the other person feels your offer is fair and reasonable? Look for something the other person is likely to trust.
- Topics, Targets, and Tradeoffs. This last letter is where you turn your preparation work into a focused one page guide to the talks. Set an agenda, develop goals for each, prioritize, and add some promising creative options.
Have you gained a sense of the type of thorough preparation that world class negotiators do? If so, why not give it a whirl? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the details above, perhaps try a few runs with just the information above and see the difference it makes. If you’d like more info, go to Seth Freeman’s site where he delves into his framework with much more detail, provides free worksheets, etc. Remember, successful negotiations are most often won in the preparation.