Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! Negotiation is often 90% preparation and 10% execution and so we have enlisted senior procurement professional George Vrakas to give us his top tips on avoiding common negotiation pitfalls. When you use logic as your approach to conduct a negotiation, the human element of the process still needs to be considered, and thus you need to be able to identify and avoid common errors in reasoning (the so-called logical fallacies) to ensure a successful outcome.
Here are George’s top 6 tips on dealing with the most common logical fallacies:
1) AD HOMINEM (go against the person not the argument)
Definition: This is encountered when someone tries to counter a claim or a position by attacking the person rather than addressing the argument.
Example: "The current system is ineffective; the vendor who implemented it was only bothered about saving costs.”
Attacking the vendor because of their alleged motives does not address the issue. What is meant by “ineffective”? What were the specifications we gave the vendor? What can be done about it? Is the system used properly? What you need to remember is that character flaws are not evidence of the validity of an argument.
2) FALSE DICHOTOMY (either/or)
Definition: This is encountered when someone reduces the possibilities in a negotiation to a simplistic dilemma i.e. it is “either black or white.”
Example: “Japanese car makers must implement green production practices, or Japan‘s carbon footprint will hit crisis proportions by 2020.”
This is a logical fallacy because it assumes there are only two options: either Japan implements green production practices or Japan will have a disastrous carbon footprint. This logic fails to consider that there may be other reasons that contribute to the carbon footprint. It also limits our thinking e.g. focusing solely on green production we may miss out on another solution such as the increase of use of public transport.
3) SPECIAL PLEADING or ADHOC READONING (the rules don’t apply as I am special)
Definition: This is encountered when someone suggests that he/she has special privileges that do not or could not apply to others.
Example: In 1996, Steve Jobs exercised a special pleading when he, misquoting Picasso, stated that “good artists copy, great artists steal,” and continued, “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Subsequently, Apple went on with a lawsuit against HTC for allegedly infringing on 20 of Apple’s patents. Thus, this is a logical fallacy because what Steve Jobs implied is that Apple can “copy” or “steal” ideas as good artists do, but HTC cannot.
4) APPEAL TO AUTHORITY (It is correct because he/she said so)
Definition: This is encountered when someone appeals to an “authoritative” person or agency to support one’s claims. i.e. “Manager X believes Y, Manager X speaks from a position of authority, therefore Y is true.”
Example: The Swissair airline was once so financially solvent it was called the "Flying Bank." However, they began to believe they were invulnerable and as a result of failing to question poor decisions and gross mismanagement, and the airline eventually went bankrupt.
This case strongly implies a case of “groupthink.” Instead of looking at the data and the shifting conditions, Swissair executives seem to have been persuaded that top management knows best, and so, did not challenge this notion until it was too late.
5) NON SEQUITUR (It doesn’t follow)
Definition: This is encountered when someone reaches a conclusion which does not necessarily follow the premise of the argument.
Example: “This is new, therefore it is better.”
The fact that something is new and shiny does not mean that it will be better. New processes are generally an enhanced version of older ones, but before you make a decision, you will still need to investigate on whether: a) there is value in changing; b) the process is suitable for your specific needs; c) there are no inherent flaws etc.
6) APPEAL TO TRADITION (If it ain't broke, don't fix it)
Definition: This is encountered when someone claims that because something has been done in a particular way for a long time, this is the correct way of doing it.
Example: “We do not need a new ERP system. We have been doing alright using excel spreadsheets for years!”
Quite simply, there is definite value in looking to change the ways we go about things – new technologies (e.g. ERP systems), new processes (Six Sigma, Lean, TQM), the list goes on. Appealing to tradition is particularly prevalent during change management processes when people who are resistant to change raise this argument again and again.
The above six logical fallacies are just a small sample of the wide variety of bad reasoning out there. However, these are a good start on the journey to establishing integrity in logical arguments during a negotiation. Now, put them to the test in your next negotiation!
George is highly reputed in the fields of services procurement and logistics with over 19 years experience. Based in Melbourne, George is a member of CIPSA, IACCM and is also serving as a Board Member of CILTA Victoria. George is the author of the www.george-vrakas.com blog and has presented on globalisation, procurement and continuous improvement at various venues and universities in Victoria.