Case StudyCase Study
Creative Problem Solving in Negotiations
SummaryA study that shows how effective creative problem solving can benefit any negotiation.
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All too often, negotiators can become tied up and bound as they commit to taking a competitive approach to their negotiation. As a result, they don’t allow themselves to be flexible nor consider a creative approach to derive more value from the negotiations. On the other hand, a common error committed by those who believe they are taking the win-win approach to their talks is to overcompensate their need to find agreement by making unwise compromises. A compromise invariably means that both resources and money will likely be left on the table, unclaimed by either party.
Here’s how two west coast energy producers, Southern California Edison Co. and Bonneville Power Administration created a joint partnership through creative problem solving whereby each party met their objectives.
In 1991, the two parties conceived of a way to help the Columbia River salmon in the Pacific Northwest, while improving the polluted air of southern California, and they managed this feat without spending any money in the process!
Here’s a précis of this unique and imaginative problem solving that illustrates the powerful benefits of the create process at work. During the summer months, Bonneville Power would increase the flow of water into the Columbia River. This would automatically increase the amount of hydroelectric power generated by California Edison. The increased flow of water allowed the young salmon to swim through the channels more easily. It also increased their survival rate because a weaker current made them more prey to becoming lost or more vulnerable to being devoured by predators.
Later, in the fall and winter months, California Edison returned the power back to Bonneville Power Administration that it had borrowed during the preceding summer months. As a result, Bonneville had very little need to run its coal-fired and oil plants during the summer months.
This was truly a win-win agreement. The exchange of power, roughly equivalent to about 100,000 households improved the migration of the salmon, thereby increasing their survival rates and expanding the fish population. Additionally, air pollution was reduced significantly as Bonneville didn’t have to resort to smog producing plants during the stifling and oft smoggy summer months that normally occur. What kind of impact? It’s been estimated the saving was about equivalent to taking about 5,000 cars off the highways. The best part of all was that absolutely no money exchanged hands in the entire process. Pretty smart, eh?