Small Advantage – Big Gains

I happened to catch an old episode of Star Trek: Next Generation the other day.  The interesting part is that United Federation of planets is busy trying to find and befriend other civilizations.  To share knowledge and culture.  To grow together.

How much does that contrast with the way the world works here and now.

I suppose fiction must be different than reality, but at the same time it must be plausible.  Maybe we are slowly moving toward a time of sharing but it is hard to see the progress.  Especially true if you pay any attention to the news.

Co-operation is a positive growth tool.  Seldom used, but nonetheless effective.  Conflict harms economic and personal growth. Find ways to deal with it.

For example, is it possible for President Obama to reach a worthwhile agreement with Iran?  Answer – No.  George Jonas recently pointed out that we should cut him a little slack for that because no one could negotiate a good  deal with Iran.

The Americans and the Iranians reached an agreement but not with a common goal in mind.  The Iranians highest goal is to develop nuclear technology.  The American’s highest goal is to prevent that.  Not a lot of commonality there.  To negotiate successfully there must be some  commonality of interest.

If a hiker encounters a hungry grizzly bear, negotiation is likely not the best choice of actions.  Sometimes you cannot negotiate and it is important to recognize those situations.

In less urgent cases, the first step should be to attempt to discover commonality.  Any commonality.  Wishes for the development of children.  Long productive life.  Success at the Olympics.  It does not matter what.  Once you have any commonality, you can go forward.

It is easier to trust someone with whom you share a feeling or a goal.  Spend time learning about your clients and customers.  Knowing that they have a dog names Spot seems like a little thing but even small advantages provide big results.

The house edge in Las Vegas is around 6%.  Not a big edge, but highly predictable and repeated thousands of times.

Your business should be on the same model.  It’s a process.  Develop a predictable advantage, explain it, present it, repeat.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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