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Play Stupid to Win Smart

Sometimes knowing when to shut up is more important than knowing when to speak up.

Pretend ignorant often can be a huge advantage when you've done the ground work.

Leaders, business people do not have the luxury to express themselves irrespective of the prospective results. Having a mature personality is one of the qualities that separates high caliber business people from ordinary people.

Just happen to see the popular "Play Stupid to Win Smart" from the famous negotiation consultant Anthony, and we try to understand it from the eastern wisdom. There was an old asian saying, "Pretend being like a pig, sometimes you can even beat Tiger"! From the famous the war bible "The Art of War" By Sun Tzu
, Chapter 1: Laying Plans
, we can find some hiddern connection to this.

In his article, he explaned a few keypoints with examples:

"In a recent negotiation with a company, it came to our attention that another party had put an offer on the table. It turned out that the other party was a group with whom we were actually planning to partner on the deal. We had proposed the opportunity to them shortly before the negotiation. My knee-jerk response was to call up the person with whom I had been dealing and offer some harsh criticism on what they had done and to effectively tell them that we were done working with them. Period.

But I paused to ask myself how that course of action would benefit me. In truth, the only benefit would have been to make me feel better right at that moment. Unfortunately this seems to be a common mistake that people make in their "talk first" decision-making process in order to feel better in the moment but it doesn't move them toward their goal.

Playing the movie forward and carefully considering the likely outcomes, I realized that remaining silent and using the knowledge to our advantage was a far better approach than flying off the handle. Why?

Scenario A: Get mad, other party has no chance to explain themselves and our reaction will hinder the probability of working with them;

Scenario B: Get mad before thinking about what alternative partners might do the deal with us, which may lead to no deal at all;

Scenario C: Get mad, tell the other party we can do the deal on our own, which would have made them bid up the price on the deal to try to win it for themselves. We'd be putting the dog in the corner, so to speak, and they'd be left to bark or bite.

By remaining silent, we could effectively play stupid and win smart. Having that knowledge gave us two pieces of valuable insight: first the other party showed how much they really wanted to do the deal, and second, their behavior to try and get the deal on their own illustrated a lack of professional protocol and gave us an early and helpful signal that this might not be the type of partner with whom we wanted to work. We quickly mobilized another partner on the deal and we proposed a joint deal at the original agreed-to price, which was accepted. "

Further Anthony proposed a few steps to deal with those situations: "

1. Pause. Consider business situations as a mini movie in production in which you are the director. When you have any new and sudden disruption to filming (i.e. new information, a new competitive entrant, a new shift in available resources, etc.), the first call to action should be to take a pause.

2. Play. Let the movie play out in your head and think about the various scenarios and how you can use the new information or situation to your advantage.

3. Mute. Remind yourself to hit your internal mute button so that you keep your thinking to yourself unless there is a compelling reason to share. Think like a poker player and ask if there is any upside to sharing what you know with the counter-party. There usually isn't.

4. Rewind and Record Again. Appropriately reset your actions and hit "record" again to move toward your desired "win smart" ending.

The act of pausing to contemplate the various scenarios that are likely to play out is critical. As in physics, every action has a equal and opposite reaction. The key is to avoid any unwanted consequences. "

Sun Tzu pointed out "look before they leap", don't attack/action unless you have a well plan! The "pause" is very effective in re-analyzing the new situation, what's the all possible correspondence/consequence?

When you are about to taking action, take it hard, to beat your opponent down, down to hell!

Acknowledgement: The orginal copyright belongs to Anthony Tjan, CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball.

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