Fuel INjected In-house: Can’t reach agreement? Maybe it’s time for a walk.

by Sam Harrison

Several years ago, I was sitting in the New York offices of a professional sports organization, trying to gain a brand licensing agreement for products being developed by my in-house team.

The room overflowed with attorneys, CPAs and marketers – all with conflicting agendas. Negotiations were stalling, and the organization’s vice president – a key decision maker for approving the licensing deal  – was tapping his pen and staring at the ceiling. I could see this valuable program slowly slipping through my fingers.

I pulled the VP aside and asked if the two of us could take a short walk. Looking like someone had just removed a thorn from his paw, he gave a small smile and told everybody to carry on while we grabbed coffee.

Five minutes later, he and I were strolling the perimeter of Bryant Park, lattes in hand, discussing what really mattered to each of us about the licensing. Ten minutes after that, we both agreed on major points. And in ten more minutes, we were back in his office, sharing our decisions and telling the lawyers and accountants to work out final details.

I remembered this little episode while reading a recent story in the New York Times about director Sam Mendes looking for a cinematographer for his latest movie, “Skyfall.” Mendes wanted nine-time-Oscar-nominated Roger Deakins, but Deakins was resisting. He wasn’t really interested in shooting a James Bond film.

So Mendes flew to Santa Monica and took Deakins for a walk on the beach to discuss the film. During this walk, the two men found common ground, and Mendes returned home with Deakins as his cinematographer.

There’s something magical about talk-it-over walks. Maybe it’s the fresh air. The shedding of stress. The removal of rank. The shift of perspective. The flow of conversation. Whatever it is, it works.

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake,” wrote poet Wallace Stevens. And solutions to problems often depend on calm walks and casual talks.

The next time you’re butting heads with a decision maker or team member, take ten and take a walk. The answers you need may be waiting outside your door.

Sam Harrison provides talks and workshops on selling ideas and presentation skills, as well as on other creativity-related topics. He’s the author of “IdeaSelling: Successfully pitch your great ideas to bosses, clients and other decision makers,” “IdeaSpotting: How to find your next great idea” and “Zing! Five steps and 101 tips for creativity on command.” Find Sam at www.zingzone.com