6 additional pitfals to avoid during a negotiation: Cognitive Biases

It was Richard Feynman who gave the most profound warning: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Following my post which highlighted the importance of identifying Logical Fallacies and showcased the 6 most prevalent ones with practical examples, I feel that it is time to also  touch upon another significant field that can become a pitfall in a negotiation, that of “cognitive bias”.

Read on if you want to find out and become conscious of 6 prevalent tendencies to self-deceive yourself by restricting into thinking in a particular way i.e. fall a victim of cognitive biases.

Gaining consciousness of this “bad reasoning” will assist to identify them and so, improve your negotiation skills.


Do you see a duck or a rabbit?


Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses.

As per the Webster’s Dictionary (Consice Encyclopedia)

“Cognition includes every mental process that may be described as an experience of knowing (including perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, and reasoning), as distinguished from an experience of feeling or of willing”.

So, a cognitive bias is a tendency to commit certain errors in the process of reasoning.

How is this different to a Logical Fallacy?

“A [Logical] fallacy is an actual mistake in reasoning. A cognitive bias is a tendency to commit certain sorts of mistakes. Not all fallacies are the result of cognitive biases, and having a cognitive bias doesn’t guarantee that you’ll commit the corresponding error”. AskPhilosopher’s


There are many cognitive biases (see list here).

The below 6 form a useful reference list of some fairly common ones that you can identify even on a daily basis:

1) Forer Effect or Barnum Effect 

This describes the effect when individuals believe that general enough statements that could apply to a wide range of people are supposedly specifically tailored for them.

This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of e.g. astrology as well as, some types of personality tests.

Below is a interesting video highlighting how this effect works:

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.59.33 pm

2) Bandwagon effect

The tendency to do (or believe) things because they are popular at the time. This is also known as herd mentality or groupthink.

Examples can be found in politics and consumer behaviour. Look at how the “cool” product, a popular leader or the latest fad attracts consumers – until the next one comes along. For example:

A political party holds a rousing rally, with music, speeches and much cheering. Those who go are encouraged to ‘keep the faith’ and ‘bring others on board’ and otherwise keep the bandwagon going. (changingminds.org)

Popular diets, popular books and popular “5 step to success” schemes may fall in this category.

3) Framing effect

Drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how or by whom that information is presented.

“This course of action has a 20 percent failure rate,” few managers would approve. When that same solution is presented as having an 80 percent success rate, the same manager is going to consider it more deeply—even though a 20 percent failure rate means the same thing as an 80 percent success rate! The frame changes the decision’.” Stever Robbins – The Path to Critical Thinking

4) Pareidolia

This is a psychological phenomenon during which vague and/or random stimuli (often an image or sound) are perceived as significant.

e.g. seeing a face in the clouds, the face on mars, and hearing non-existent hidden messages on white noise or on records played in reverse.


5) Stereotyping

This is the expectation that a member of an ethnic, religious, geographic, gender or other group has certain characteristics just because they belong to that group, without having more information about this person.

As an example:

What comes to mind when you hear the word economist? Probably a male figure of some sort.

Substitute the word “economist” for “nurse”, “teacher”, “scientist” or “doctor”.

Well, there you have it.

6) Halo effect

The “what is beautiful is good” effect.

The Halo effect describes the tendency we have to form perceptions of one’s personality (or other characteristics) based on a particular likeable or unlikable element such as the person’s physical attractiveness.

“One great example of the halo effect in action is our overall impression of celebrities. Since we perceive them as attractive, successful, and often likeable, we also tend to see them as intelligent, kind and funny”. (psychology.about)

The above six cognitive biases 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 thinking towards a successful negotiation.

How many of them can you identify in your daily interactions?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

“The rabbit–duck illusion is an ambiguous image in which a rabbit or a duck can be seen….. The image was made famous by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who included it in his Philosophical Investigations as a means of describing two different ways of seeing: seeing that/seeing as”.

In pursuit of Best Practice – Intrapreneurship

This article first appeared on Procurious.com as a guest blog contribution. You can find the original blog post here.


At its simplest, Best Practice means we are doing our job better than others. …that might translate to closing deals faster, achieving consistently good negotiated results, establishing terms and change processes that support high-performance relationships or realizing results that regularly exceed expectations. So we want to be better, faster, contributing greater value, making fewer mistakes” Notes on “What do we mean by Best Practice” by IACCM

As already elaborated here, an essential aspect for becoming successful in the future, is Creativity.

The term, Creativity, most probably conjures up images of successful Entrepreneurs that have a vision and the courage to pursue their dreams.

Outstanding Entrepreneurship is a well-defined quality behind every successful organisation.

Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson are followed and their ideas celebrated in the public domain.

However, it would most likely be better for an organisation to not only try to maintain its competitive edge on the ideas of one or even a handful of forward thinking individuals, but also find ways to tamper into the creativity and ideas of every one of its employees.

Hence, organisations should also look into the promotion and support of Intrapreneusrship.

Read on if you want to find out more about this idea, as well as, get to learn about one way to harvest the concept of Intrapreneurship as a means to pursue Best Practice within your own organisation.

Outside the box


Jeroen de Jong and Sander Wennekers explored the concept here.According to them:

“Intrapreneurship refers to employee initiatives in organizations to undertake something new, without being asked to do so.”

There are a few companies that actively promote intrapreneurial behaviour e.g. Google  allows its employees to spend up to 20% of their time to pursue projects of their choice.3M and Intel appear to have programs towards similar promotions (see here).

However, intrapreneurship is not only about the pursuit of new products and revenue streams.

Intrapreneurship contains an element of innovation. Innovation refers to the production and implementation of useful ideas, including the adaptation of products or processes from outside an organization. As Antoncic and Hisrich highlights (here)

“Intrapreneurship is about “emergent behavioural intentions and behaviours that are related to departures from the customary ways of doing business in existing organizations”

In other terms Intrapreneurship is about the pursuit of Best Practice.

In parallel, it is also important to note that the support of the practice of Intrapreneurship also helps maintain engaged teams that always challenge themselves and evolve the organisational practices, processes and results (read more about team engagement here and here).

Ideas Charter (a simple and practical way to pursue Best Practice)

As part of an effort to promote employee engagement and Intrapreneurial behaviours, I developed the Ideas Charter.

This is a simple process which ensures that all new ideas are captured, evaluated, and then through a process that promotes and supports undertaking innovative projects, implemented.

The Ideas Charter Process works like this.

i) A champion is assigned to capture all ideas that can enhance processes or contribute to efficiency and effectiveness in a simple spreadsheet called the Ideas Charter (see template here). This is done on a non judgmental way to the perceived value of the ideas i.e. following Edward De Bono’s six hat definition – by wearing a green hat.

ii) The ideas are then evaluated and validated by a selected committee and approved or not approved for further development.

iii) If an idea is approved, then that idea is made available as a potential candidate for a future side project to be done by a team member or a team.

iv) Every two months the team is asked to select a side project to work on. Each team member is encouraged to pick one of the Ideas in the Ideas Charter and work on it. A due date is allocated.

v) At the end of the allocated period each member presents his/her side project along with a benefits analysis.

vi) The side project outcome is placed into production. This outcome  could be a change in process, a development of a business case i.e.  it could be anything that promotes efficiency or effectiveness.

vii) After 3 side projects are completed and presented, the team is given the opportunity to vote for the best one. The winner is celebrated.

This is a simple but effective way to work towards Best Practice in small teams. From personal experience this concept has the power to engage the team and also to elevate the level of efficiency and effectiveness as delivered by its outputs.

Finally, it works towards Yves Morieux’s vision elaborated in his presentation about “How to Develop a Winning organisation” – see here . Yves eloquently summarised his position as below:

“The real battle is not against competitors. The real battle is against ourselves. Against our bureaucracy, against our complicatedness” – Yves Morieux

What systems do you have in place to promote and support the pursuit of Best Practice?




Image courtesy of glendale inquiry