The successful negotiations in California between the Health Services and the fast food chains (see article here) is a good example of how “visualisation” behaviour can help people “join” together in a negotiation. The parents of those committed to fast food could visualise how a healthy regime would benefit future generations of their kids, and the fast food chains could visualise an opportunity to capture more (currently healthy eating) customers, as well as, no doubt scoring points for social responsibility. The article calls this “inventive negotiation”.

Once you can see that both parties want to join then it’s possible to find “coinage” on both sides to cement the deal. “Coinage” is a low value concession from one side that meets a high value need on the other. So, it doesn’t cost a fast food outlet much to provide apples and milk as an alternative, because either way they are still going to sell something to customers (whether it’s fast or healthy food). Equally the fast food families had nothing to lose by joining in with the scheme since all they were agreeing to do was visit fast food outlets they wanted to go to anyway.

Joining behaviour is great in some cases, but can only work where it’s genuinely possible to visualise and paint a picture of future outcomes that encourages people to “join”. That is not possible in every negotiation, and sometimes the parties resent moves to “join”, particularly if they are suggested too early in the process or there are some bitter feelings dividing the parties. So, it was a great tactic here and can be a very helpful tactic often, but won’t always work….