To Win or not to Win

How often do you hear the phrase “let’s think win-win”? How often are you using the phrase “we must operate in a win-win mode”? How rare are the cases where both sides feel they have won after the fact?

Win-win is often considered a mindset: we need to adopt it – we are expected to think win-win is not only a valid option, but it is the best and most effective option. And in many cases, that is actually the case: win-win is indeed the most effective mindset… but only if you manage to realize it.

Here’s the thing: adopting a win-win mindset is an essential starting point, but without understanding how to generate this mutual win, it will always remain a mindset. Without coming up with a practical understanding of how each side can benefit from the project or the joint venture, the road to frustration and disappointment is super-short.

There are many ways to approach a situation where the mutual win for all the parties involved is not apparent or trivial. I would like to suggest that this is a perfect example where creativity, and in particular the ability to see things differently can make all the difference.

It Starts with What’s Important to Me

To be able to think win-win and create the required setup for it, I must profoundly know where I am going, or in other words: what’s important to me. Sounds easy enough, but many people and organizations don’t have a good and concise view of their destination and what is important to them along the way.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I must be able to see things differently and find a path that is still leading me towards my goals” quote=”I must be able to see things differently – to find an alternate path that is still leading me towards my goals”]

I like to think of it as a lighthouse. Having a beacon to guide our way is essential because we will soon realize that the road to our destination is not trivial – it is not straight. We are bound to make some deviations, detours, and sometimes a massive u-turn. Without a lighthouse one can easily get lost, or, as the case is so often, lack the confidence to make some adjustments along the way.

And that is where creativity becomes an essential ingredient to a win-win approach. If I use the lighthouse too strictly, the chances for a surprising win-win result decrease significantly. I must be able to see things differently – to find an alternate path that is still leading me towards my goals, but is often far from being trivial. This is where most of the potential hides. Without actively pursuing it, we are left with my way or your way.

It Continues with What’s Important to You

But that is only half of the story, of course. Being confident enough in where I am heading to make some changes along the way is crucial. But without really understanding what is important to you as well, there is no win-win either.

The challenge is that people don’t always articulate what’s important to them explicitly. Sometimes they don’t even know how to phrase this eluding concept. If you can’t articulate what your “win” is, how can we ever achieve win-win?

This is yet another aspect where the ability to see things differently, creatively, becomes once more essential. I often need to see through my partner’s plain words. The cards you put on the table are only the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes it creates the perception of the wrong iceberg altogether. I must listen mindfully, be able to change my perspective and see things as you do. I must be able to imagine. And that is a purely creative activity.

Imagining a New Alternative

[clickToTweet tweet=”Coming up with a new, often elusive, idea that will promote both sides is a #creative act” quote=”Coming up with this new, often elusive, idea that will not only satisfy but even promote both sides is a creative act”]

The challenge in many interactions that call for a win-win solution is imagining that solution. Of course, some interactions are trivial. They might be win-win by definition. But from the vast majority of the rest, the solution that will be most effective to both sides is not an immediate one. It is rarely one of the initial solutions one of the parties puts on the table.

Coming up with this new, often elusive, idea that will not only satisfy but even promote both sides is a creative act. It is by definition an act of seeing things differently and defining something new based on the raw material we brought into the discussion.

And this is where creativity can affect every aspect of our life. Literally.

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