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Why is it important to separate brainstorming from evaluating options?

It is a good idea to separate brainstorming negotiation options from evaluating those options for a number of reasons. First, you may find that if you evaluate options as you brainstorm them, your brainstorming will tend to be less creative and expansive than if you separate the two processes. This may inadvertently cause you to constrain your brainstorming and overlook creative options that might at first glance not be attractive, but on subsequent analysis could have offered certain benefits. Second, when you constrain your brainstorming by evaluating options as you brainstorm, you are sending a message to yourself (and potentially to other stakeholders) that you are not prepared to be flexible in considering various possibilities. Remember, just because a “bad” idea makes it onto your brainstormed list does not mean you will agree to it! Third, if you separate brainstorming from evaluating options, you are likely to give yourself a longer list of options from which to select in formulating a negotiation package. This can be particularly important in complex negotiations where you do not have one “silver bullet” to solve all problems. You may need to consider a number of possible options, some of which may satisfy certain interests and harm others. In that situation, you are almost always better off having a robust list of brainstormed actions from which to choose your optimal package. Finally, remember, just because you separate brainstorming from evaluating options does not mean you will forego evaluating options; you are merely deferring the evaluation process until you have a bigger list from which to select the most effective potential options.

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