Blog: Going Beyond Dead Presidents… and Benjamin Franklin
By Pratik Butala
Negotiations are some of the most challenging business conversations to have because the two parties at the table often act as adversaries looking to get the largest “share of the pie.” In our first semester’s Management and Organizations class, we were taught to expand the pie, involve multiple issues in the negotiation, and in the end, create value through the exchange. Business strategy and decision-making is all about value capture among two negotiating parties (business and consumer) and value is not necessarily defined as monetary. So why then are most business decisions (and therefore, negotiations) in the “real-world” hinged upon the single issue of money?
Within my four years of experience at a top-consulting firm, it is impossibly hard for me to remember a business conversation that did not hinge upon the flow of dollars related to a particular decision. Even as an undergraduate at one of the top business schools, I cannot remember a significant discussion that went beyond business ethics and focused on something other than the amount of dollars generated or saved. While I wholeheartedly agree with the merits of capitalism, I feared from my past experience that the scope of business decision-making was limited to the money that was created or retained by an organization.
After joining the Social Venture Fund at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, I’ve come to realize that it is possible to look beyond the greenback. Having gained exposure to social entrepreneurs focused on solving some of societies greatest issues using self-sustaining business models that concurrently generate profits and social good, I’ve begun to ask myself why larger corporations have not started to adopt this framework of thinking to increase the value of the pie, instead of merely distributing it. For example, Google, a company I greatly admire, states in its classic “10 Things”, “you can make money without doing evil”; what if instead, Google had stated “you can make money by doing good?” While the literal meaning has changed only subtly, the implications of the change are far greater. If Google began to approach its business with a focus on making money by doing good, its decision-making framework would have to expand beyond dollars, establishing a second issue for negotiations with its customers. Based on negotiation strategies taught in business school, would this not be preferable to a distributive negotiation in which each party fights for their own “share of the pie”?
Something to think about, but that’s just my two copper Abraham Lincoln’s…