Do I Have to Own the Crown Jewels?

Old negotiators will have heard this piece of wisdom “You never give away the crown jewels”. In other words, you need to recognize what assets deserve your protection. And it is conceivable that you might bargain away the crown jewels, but only for something even better.

This line of thought was challenged by Roger Fisher and Bill Ury a long time ago. They argued that building relationships is more important than guarding fixed positions (including assets). And the “win/win” style of negotiation was born. Since then, we have built up a lot of experience in how this can improve shared environments: like at work. But we are just starting to realize that elevating connectivity over ownership has profound effects on how we should structure our institutions.

First, we are starting to play with the idea that we need networks that expand our working relationships beyond individual companies. This is the wisdom behind Prof. Chesbrough’s “open innovation” business modeling school.  The logic here is pretty simple – learning has a social dimension. So if you want to learn faster, expand your social environment beyond the walls of your enterprise.

Equally important, we are starting to see more clearly that owning something is not a pre-condition for making it valuable. Sometimes, making something proprietary can kill it. The Ezra Klein story is an example. Mr. Klein is an up and coming political journalist who used to work for the venerable Washington Post. Klein wanted to start a new political reporting venture and asked the Post to fund it. The Post said “no” and Klein said “so long”. So the Post lost Klein and the opportunity to share in his venture. Mathew Ingram writes for Giga (see link above)

As Kara Swisher of Re/Code (and formerly of All Things Digital) noted in her comments to Dylan Byers at Politico, cutting a deal like the one Klein tried to make is difficult at best, in part because newspapers like the Post hate to not own and control 100 percent of the things that fall under their brand…

Ah! The old “crown jewels” idea. Well, we have come a long way since then. Errr … at least some of us have.


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