The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

Start With No: The Negotiating Tools That the Pros Don’t Want You to Know
By Jim Camp
271 pp. New York: Crown Business, 2002
Hardback Edition: (US) $22.95

In order to address The Negotiator Magazine’s goal of providing a truly comprehensive resource in the field of negotiations, the new Reader’s Review started with a series of reviews exploring books written by proponents of various negotiating approaches and styles. We began with Henry S. Kramer’s focus on positional bargaining (September), examined cross-cultural negotiating in the work of Walker, Walker and Schmitz (October), and reviewed the work of Steven Cohen, one of the leading advocates of "interest-based" negotiations (November). This month we review Jim Camp’s new work on the "decision-based" approach to negotiations.

Start With No is a book that will make you grit your teeth if you are a member of the win-win negotiating school, but one that will also make you think about what it really means to be a negotiator. Jim Camp is a contrarian who views today’s leading negotiating school, win-win or "interest- based" negotiations, as "…hopelessly misguided as a basis for good negotiating…" (p. 1).

Camp is not a subtle writer and his condemnation gives no quarter. "It’s [win-win] all double talk," Camp asserts (p. 3). Lest the reader miss the point, Camp hammers it home by calling win-win negotiation "… the worst possible way to get the best possible deal" (p. 2). In fact, he adds, "… a gung-ho, win-win negotiator on the other side of the table is a sitting duck" (p. 4).

In Jim Camp’s view of negotiations, the parties are "adversaries" not collaborators. Often, these adversaries are "tigers," sometimes masquerading as win-win advocates only in order to pounce on na├»ve negotiators who have been lured into a cunning charade. The negotiating arena, as Camp portrays it, is a dangerous world and the win-win negotiator is easy prey for the wily adversary.

Indeed, the negotiator does operate in a treacherous landscape. Wolves, or in this case "tigers," dressed in sheep’s clothing are the subjects of one of the oldest cautionary tales in human history. Every negotiator of any school who forgets that lesson is in considerable peril.

Before we turn to Jim Camp’s choice of negotiating system, it is important to note that because negotiations are human interactions they require approaches as differing as the people who engage in them. It is not a "one size fits all" art form.

Every successful negotiator may have a preferred approach, but must be a versatile and skilled practitioner across the range of negotiating styles they will encounter in the field. The possession of a one-stringed bow in a world of multi-faceted individuals is always a recipe for disaster.

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