Triple Bottom Line

How to Negotiate Sustainability

December 07, 2022 Taylo Martin / Ben Kimura-Gross
Triple Bottom Line
How to Negotiate Sustainability
Show Notes Transcript

Ben Kimura-Gross, master negotiator, persuader, and conflict manager. He coaches sustainability leaders how to negotiate with perspective-switching skills, a naturally curious, and an empathic trust-builder technique. He’s trained leaders at major corporations, the German government, and has the experience of how to handle just about any type of negotiation. How would you like to up your negotiating game? Listen to Ben explore unique techniques to do just that, or visit his website to download his free 7 powerful tips eBook:  https://negotiating-with-goliath.com
 

Triple Bottom Line | Episode 44 | Ben Kimura-Gross

[Upbeat theme music plays] 
Female Voice Over 
[00:03] Welcome to the Triple Bottom Line, where we reveal how today’s business leaders are reaching a new level of success with a people-planet-profit approach. And here is your host, Taylor Martin!

Taylor Martin 
[00:17] Welcome back, everybody. I have Ben Kimura-Gross on today. He is a master negotiator, a persuader, a conflict manager for green tech and sustainability. He coaches individuals and teams on how to negotiate with great perspective switching skills and natural curiosity, and an empathetic trust building technique. He’s trained leaders at major corporations, the German government, and he has the experience of how to handle just about any type of negotiation. Ben, tell us a little bit about your background and how you became so focused on training sustainable leaders and in the green tech companies.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[00:55] Thank you very much for having me on, Taylor. It’s a pleasure. Yeah, to answer your question, I’ve been a negotiation – sorry, mainly in communications training for corporate leaders for over a decade. My focus has been on change management, coalition building, conflict resolution, persuasion, and finally, last but not least, also negotiation. Having been in this trade for a while, about a year ago, a friend of mine, who runs the International Windship Association, he said, “Ben, you’re training the wrong people.” Because I’ve been working for news media, IT, pharma, some government work. He basically kicked off my deep dive into sustainability a little bit over a year ago. The thing is I was one of those people who thought that your personal choices that you make and all that, that’s good enough. I’m doing my thing. I’m doing my bit. Gavin really made me aware that we need to be much more forceful in driving the transformations that have to happen if we want to get through the climate crisis in one piece. What he convinced me to do basically is to say drop whatever you’re doing. This is what you need to be doing.

Then when I took my deep dive into sustainability and tried to understand how are people moving forward on regenerative farming or on all the other sustainability things or sustainability leaders within companies where the company might be doing something, just whatever a normal company does and they have a large supply chain and then there’s a sustainability manager to improve the sustainability the supply chain, all that kind of stuff. There are people who really want to bring about these transformations. The other thing that I realized and understood when I took my deep dive was the intensity of the resistance to change. I thought, hey, this is what I’ve been doing for most of my working life is to facilitate change and to also help the people who want to push the change to negotiate their way or to negotiate for change. Then that just caused the switch in my clientele, which then became sustainability professionals and green tech leaders, people working on EV, smart grids, regenerative agriculture, wind propulsion for shipping, even fintech companies who are pushing for impact investment, things like that.

Taylor Martin
[03:19] Yeah, I think that’s great. That’s one of the reasons that caught my attention when you and I first spoke because I feel like we need more of that. We need people pushing their thumb on the scale as much as possible for more and more sustainability efforts and decision making. When you’re out there helping sustainability leaders become more effective, that’s exactly what that does. I’ve got to give a shoutout to Gavin. I just have to say thank you, Gavin, for making him take this new direction. Let’s dive in here. Can you give us some examples of how you come in and help sustainability leaders or companies or teams?

Ben Kimura-Gross
[03:55] I’m going to lead with an example which is your typically negotiation, but I want to say right at the beginning that bargaining with investors is not the only negotiation scenario. In this case, that’s what that was. There was a startup. They were negotiating with two angel investors. The angel investors, that typical group of family and friends – friends of a family, actually, one generation older so there’s that respect for your, not elders, but you know what I mean. There’s that generational respect from the young founders towards the experienced businessmen. They pulled a bait and switch on them. Basically, they said, okay, this is what we’re willing to invest. We’d like to receive 5% equity each, two investors. That takes 10% equity of the entire startup. We are at the very beginning of the investment stages. That’s quite a chunk. Then when it came down to deal making, they suddenly turned around and said, “Actually, we’ve been supporting you with this and that and all the nonfinancial support and building the contacts that you’ve got. Actually, we’d like 10% each, yeehaw.” Luckily, at that point, that’s when the startup got to know me and they were – we got connected with each other. They were basically just asking like, “What do we do? Do we give them 6% or 7% or 8%?” I said, “No, no, you give them 5% and not a penny more.”

Taylor Martin
[05:23] Yeah, agreed.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[05:24] Basically, one of the skills that they had to develop was to resist that social pressure to give them a friendly deal because they’re friends. Again, there’s so many irrational components in negotiation and that’s what fascinates me because people think negotiation is all about this economy of finding the best outcome for all parties, etc., etc., but the irrational components are the ones that actually make the big changes in outcomes. In this case, it was these two founders training very hard to overcome that social pressure, which is an irrational component. They trained hard and they got their 5%. They kept the angel investors at 5% each, didn’t give an inch. That was actually one of my first experiences working with people on that smaller scale, because I come more from the corporate side. I was so proud of them because these two guys, they’re young. They’re at the very beginning of their negotiation journey. They haven’t built up loads and loads of techniques and habits and skills and stuff. What they did do was they really knuckled down and they trained really hard for a couple of weeks, just a few weeks. They made that negotiation happen 100% in the way that it was supposed to go, it should go, which is keeping the 5%, not giving into the bait and switch.

Taylor Martin
[06:48] Yeah, and I guess they also probably made sure, in so doing, they made sure that the relationship was good.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[06:55] Yeah, while keeping the relationship at least friendly enough that they can still go to the big family dinners.

Taylor Martin
[07:02] Yeah, right. What are some other examples or – and I keep getting into the techniques of negotiation because I just find it incredibly fascinating.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[07:13] Let me give you a completely different example. Another fairly small company that I worked with, also about half a year ago, nine months ago, something like that, was a regenerative farming consultancy. What they do is they have a huge network of regenerative farmers all over the world, including in the Caribbean, Brazil, Africa, northern Africa. They’re connected with these communities. They help these farmers connect with people who want to buy their produce. Now, they’re not wholesalers or anything like that, but they’re just – so to take this example. They were approached by a large cosmetics company by the purchasing department, I think it’s called procurement, who wanted to use natural products, which when we think farming, we think food, but actually you could grow a lot of stuff that goes into cosmetics, too. What this large multinational corporation and their procurement department, what they had in mind, their idea was that they want to source more regenerative ingredients. Because first of all, it’s healthy for the skin or wherever you apply the cosmetics, and also, it’s a great marketing thing.

They had this idea of how it was going to work. They said, “Well, it’s very easy. You introduce us to your network of regenerative farmers. We’ll tell them what to grow and the quantities we need and when we want it. They’ll deliver according to our schedule needs and that’s it,” which is obviously completely irrational and not even manageable. With a lot of these regenerative farmers, they’re not huge so it’s more like collaborations of – or what do you call that? Collectives of small-scale farmers. Basically, they were asking this consultancy to serve up their entire network on a silver platter, and then pay them a small fee, and then say, “Okay, you’re out. We don’t need you anymore.” The bait was, well, then you’ll have the renown of having worked with us, one of the largest multinational cosmetics corporations. Isn’t that wonderful? The consultancy got into this stuck mode. They didn’t know how to reply to that.

Then basically through, again, a personal connection, a friend of a friend, I got connected with them. We talked about what kind of – the quite harsh conditions that they were facing. I trained with them to be able to say, “First of all, thanks, we don’t need your renown,” but to say it in a kind way that’s not confrontational. This is a huge part of what I do is to bring across the difficult messages in such a way that they can be accepted. Then to focus the conversation on the innovative opportunities, basically innovation within the cosmetics corporation. Then to steer the conversation towards, well, actually, we shouldn’t be talking to purchasing but to RND, shouldn’t we? To make them a specific offer, they can do a workshop with RND and then say, okay, where do we take it from here? Then the workshop basically would be a workshop to explore the opportunities for innovation at that cosmetics company when working with regenerative farmers and their produce.

What does this tell us? First of all, a lot of companies think that becoming, whatever, sustainable, green, regenerative, all that, well, we just need to buy some other products and that’s it. Then we’ve made it. No, you haven’t. Usually, it means a deeper level of transformation. How do you get in a negotiation situation where you’re negotiating even about the conditions of how you’re going to collaborate? Because every negotiation is basically two or more parties getting together and saying we want to do something together. What is it and how? How do you get a large corporation to understand that what they really need to do is they need to enter a more deeply transformative process. That’s also part of negotiation.

Taylor Martin
[11:11] Yeah, I mean, what you just talked about, you shifted the attention from procurement into RND. That goes way beyond, as far as I can see, from negotiation. That redirected the communications.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[11:24] There also I think what’s interesting and what I always come across is the question of what is negotiating. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say my wife and I are cooking dinner and we’re saying, “Oh, should we watch something on TV tonight? Should we have a TV dinner?” We say, “Yeah, okay. Let’s have – okay, what should we watch?” Should we watch the action movie that I want to watch or the family drama that she wants to watch? That’s a negotiation, right?

Taylor Martin
[11:48] I’m very familiar with that exact negotiation.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[11:52] Because like I said, every time two or more parties are trying to decide, we want to do something together, but how and what are we going to do together, every time that happens, that’s a negotiation. When did you start negotiating with your wife?

Taylor Martin
[12:07] A long time ago.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[12:12] It’s basically even before you move in together, you started negotiating about the conditions of your relationship, etc., etc., priorities, values. If you take more like a broad view on negotiation like that, then redirecting a company’s attention on not one set of conditions of a deal, like dealing with procurement and purchasing, but rather another set of conditions, to me, that’s still a part of negotiating. Because when I think negotiating, I don’t only think the first example, basically bargaining. It’s more than that. Then it also connects to my ideal of compassionate conflict. Because in negotiations, when we are negotiating, we are talking about different interests. We’re talking about we do want to do something together, but are we aligned in what we want to do together? Are we aligned in how we want to do that together? Then you have to haggle out the conditions of cooperating with each other. You can either do that by using force, even in negotiation. Large companies do that all the time. They have the power of that large corporation. They have infrastructure power. They have sometimes [inaudible] wealth behind them and they can just dictate the terms. That’s coercive negotiating, and especially as a smaller counterpart, how do you deal with that? That’s really where I want to put my focus working with startups. That’s why, of course, my whole thing is called, my new project when I started it, I decided to call it Negotiating with Goliath.

Taylor Martin
[13:46] I love that.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[13:47] Thank you. The thing is we have to be careful – or how do I say this? Some people get it wrong. They think like, oh, Goliath, it’s about a fight. No, but it’s called Negotiating with Goliath, right? It’s not about shooting off the slingshot. It’s about basically getting on a really tall barstool, looking him in the eyes, and saying, “Hey, let’s talk.” Just a little bit about my family background, both of my parents are war refugees, and therefore, I have a pretty close connection to seeing violent conflict, not seeing violence, but understanding the consequences of violent conflict. I guess somewhere deep down, that’s the thing that moves me to say, okay, no, no, let’s not – let’s put down the slingshot. Let’s negotiate. If you look at the history, for example, there are people who want to push very intense forms of change on societies right now, lots of activists or lots of people in counterculture who are basically saying, “The system’s broken. We’ve got to do something completely different and we’ll force it down your throat.” While I do agree with some of the activism that’s going on, look at the revolutions that we’ve seen in the last 100 to 150 years. Okay, maybe takes us back to 200 years if you’re looking at the French revolution, too, right? French revolution, Russian revolution, Chinese revolution, they’re all extremely violent with lots of death and destruction. That’s not the way we want to go. That is not the way we want to go so we better keep talking.

Taylor Martin
[15:24] Yeah, that part where you talked about when Goliath comes to the table and has all that energy and they can dictate the terms, that energy, that type of energy, I feel like that’s the way people have as a default mechanism in their mind when they’re coming to negotiations. They just both come at it with that force of I want this and I want that and I’m going to get this and I’m going to get that, as opposed to be more openminded in more of a talkative conversation manner. This is just my interpretation, but coming at it where you put your cards on the table, transparently, and say, “Listen, this is where we are. This is what we’re doing. We want to be able to accomplish this goal. We think working with you or buying you out or whatever, we can accomplish this goal,” because then you’re bringing them into your story. I don’t know. I just feel like that part is starting to make inroads in some places but I just feel like that’s something that’s overlooked.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[16:20] Certainly, and also because we have this culture of tendency to classify negotiators as either good or evil, or good faith, bad faith, that kind of stuff. Look at those two examples that I gave. The two angel investors who suddenly want a 10%, they truly believe that they have given a lot and they truly believe that they deserve 10%. That they did a bait and switch, that wasn’t very nice, but these kind of people in their own eyes, they’re not trying to do something evil. It’s just the way they think the world works. They’re trying to act in line with that. Science shows us that there’s no way that anybody can perceive the entirety of reality exactly as it is so we all have that. I think that’s one thing that, if you can accept that, then it’s more constructive not to blame them for having a, let’s say, distorted version of reality in their head, but to just expect perception to be distorted, expect people to be biased, and learn to deal with that irrationality in negotiations. Because once you learn to deal with that constructively rather than going head-to-head, then you get different level results. I’m talking really different level results. This is not some wishy-washy, oh, let’s all be friends, peace talk kind of thing. These are methods that the FBI uses to negotiate with hostage takers. This is what Nelson Mandela used to negotiate with a white supremacist. We’re talking intense real-world results that are much more powerful in their outcomes than going head-to-head.

Taylor Martin
[18:03] Yeah, you said that term you said earlier when we first spoke about seeing the world as it is. I feel like that and what you just said about anticipating it, expecting it, that’s a brain shift right there. I really like that.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[18:17] That shift alone can change your attitude. Sometimes it’s not easy, right? Because a lot of our reactions when we sense that somebody is aggravating, or how do you say, aggressing against us, then we have natural and instinctive reflex reaction. Those reactions aren’t compassionate. They’re confrontational. How do you retain that in a balance so that you can remain compassionate towards people, even as they’re aggressing against you, but not lose your track? Stay on track with your strategic goals. That’s a very high-level skill. It requires us to not only learn cognitive skills, like the right questioning techniques and stuff like that, but it requires us to learn new reflexes. That’s one of the things that I really focus on in my negotiation trainings is to teach people to have different kinds of reflexes.

I’ll give you one very simple example. With the startup negotiating with the two angel investors, so there’s a lot of body language in these kinds of negotiations. It totally changes the outcome. One of them had longer hair and he kept touching his hair, which is what we call a pacifying action. Pacifying is when you’re stressed and you do some kind of action, like touching your hair or some people rub their hands on the top of their jeans or stuff like that, all these kinds of calming motions. When a really experienced investor sees that, they know you’re stressed. What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to, for example, say, “Sorry, we can’t give you more than 5% and that’s the final word,” and then do some pacifying action because that means you’re stressed so now they know they can still push a button. What you do want to do is you want to say, “You know what? Yeah, and I know this is disappointing to you, but the 5% is all that we’ve got to give,” and then slightly lean back. Because leaning back is a kind of – it shows confidence in the sense that you’re not leaning forward and you don’t need the answer. You’re not pining for their answer. Leaning back is the counterpart to that.

Taylor Martin
[20:32] Okay, I’m loving this. I love these technique things like this. I want to hear a lot more. Just keep going.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[20:38] The thing is you have to really train that. You can’t do that like – because in the moment when you’re saying your 5% thing and you’re all in the social construct of what’s happening, then you can’t pay attention to that anymore. You have to train it like you train a reflex, like you train, whatever, a tennis player trains to serve, or whatever, or a basketballer trains the way they shoot the ball or pass the ball. You have to be able to have those reflexes ready right when you need them.

Taylor Martin
[21:10] What are some things that you teach people to – what are the big items that people have a hard time that they need to be – they need to have that reflex on that they’re always, that you see from your point of view, that they should be working on or you’re training them on or you’re giving them cues on.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[21:28] Let me start with one which is absolute key. When you make an ask – every negotiation has a point where you make your request, your demand, your ask. When you make an ask, after you’ve made your ask, shut up.

Taylor Martin
[21:47] You’re talking about not saying anything after you’re done and just let the dead space do its work.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[21:52] Exactly, that silence is so powerful. That silence also signifies confidence. If I want an investment for $1 million. Let’s say I’m a startup. I want $1 million for whatever, 5% equity, and I say, “How about $1 million?” I say it with confidence and then I just leave it sitting there. It’s completely different than if I say, “So how about $1 million, if that’s okay? I mean, I don’t know, but you know,” however crazy that sounds, people actually keep talking after they make their demand. One of the most powerful things to do is just not do that, is just enjoy and endure the silence. That’s one thing.

Taylor Martin
[22:40] I love it.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[22:41] The other thing is a lot of people who are in sustainability, they believe they’re doing the right thing. They want some positive change, whether it’s that we eat less meat or that some kind of – some change in supply chain of some company moving from internal combusting engines to EV, whatever it is, there’s a strong believe that they’re right and they’re more right than the person they’re talking to because the person they’re talking to is still doing the wrong thing. What you get in situations like that, and you have to be really, really careful is you get something called moral disgust, meaning that you feel morally superior and you are morally disgusted with the stupid action that the other person is still engaging in. They haven’t caught up yet, so to say. That sense of moral superiority and your sense of moral disgust towards the person you’re talking to, it shows on your face.

The problem is that in the brain and also your facial expressions, moral disgust, it actually does the same thing in your brain and on your face as physical disgust, like the kind of physical disgust that you have when you step on a slug or something like that barefoot. Do you remember that? Like as a kid, you’re running through the garden and it suddenly goes squelch and you’re like, right? That kind of disgust, right? That’s what shows up on your face when you’re talking to people towards whom you’re feeling moral disgust. Basically, on your face, you’re showing them you’re the slug and I’m the kid who just stepped on you barefoot. Imagine what that does to the dynamics of a relationship in a negotiation. Forget it.

There’s research that shows that if you have relationships where disgust shows up on the face like so and so many times over a period of 45 minutes, and it’s few, I can’t remember exactly, but like 11 times or something like that, and they’re millisecond. They’re these, what’s his name, [inaudible] what he calls micro expressions, stuff that we don’t even notice consciously, but 95% of the time, that relationship will end. It’s like goodbye, I hate you, never want to see you again. You don’t want that to happen in a negotiation. How do you overcome your sense of moral disgust towards the person that you’re talking to? Because that’s a reflex. It’s micro expressions. You can’t control it. You have to work on compassion because it’s not like we have to control our emotions. That’s absolutely not what science is telling us. What science is telling us is that emotions are there. They control our decision-making processes, etc., etc., and sometimes they’re good for us and sometimes they’re not. What can you do? You can replace a negative emotion with a positive one. Find the moment of compassion. If you can find that, that’s what’s going to stop the moral disgust showing up on your face. It’s all about training routines, reflexes, habits, that kind of stuff.

Taylor Martin
[25:45] I can see someone coming to a negotiation and just – I’m just hearing you say this and I’m prepping myself as be openminded, listen, listen to what they have to say, connect with them, see it from their point of view, stand in their shoes. These are the things that are running around in my head. 

Ben Kimura-Gross
[26:02] Then they say something like, “Triple bottom line, you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. I mean, people, planet, what is it? Profit? Forget it. We need a total degrowth, blah, blah, blah,” and they come flying in your face. Then the question is how long can you withstand that without the moral disgust showing on your face.

Taylor Martin
[26:26] That’s pretty hardcore, man. I don’t know. Every time they did something like that, I would start to kind of think, should I be at this table with this person? Should we even be here negotiating? Is this not right? Is this not a good fit?

Ben Kimura-Gross
[26:43] Yeah, and then you’ve got to ask yourself, well, what about Nelson Mandela? Did he feel like he really wanted to negotiate with a white supremacist who threatened civil war unless Mandela steps down from the candidacy for the presidency? Did he want to talk to that guy? No, of course not, but I think one of the things that is so amazing about Nelson Mandela is that I’m sure he didn’t have formal negotiation training from the FBI, for example, but he used a lot of those techniques, maybe unknowingly, but he used techniques that totally drill into that whole let me understand your world before I ask you to understand mine. He invited – the guy’s name was Constand Viljoen. He was a general of the South African Army. He had 55,000 armed men behind him and basically said, “I’ve got this ultimatum for you. Unless you step down from the candidacy to the presidency, I’m going to start a civil war with 55,000 armed men in South Africa.”

Nelson Mandela says, “Okay, come over to my place. Let’s have a cup of tea.” Of course, he didn’t say it in that accent, a slightly American accent, but he invited him for a cup of tea, he poured him tea, asked him if he wanted milk, asked him if he wanted sugar, and everything personal private, sat him down on his sofa, sat down next to him on the sofa so no moment of confrontation at all, asked him about his favorite rugby players, spoke to him in Afrikaans, which is not Nelson Mandela’s mother tongue, which is Xhosa. All those things to show that he cared for and respected the world according to Constand Viljoen. After doing that for a while, he basically got him to agree to himself also become a politician and run for public office. Then in ‘99 when Mandela stepped down, Constand Viljoen did a goodbye speech for Nelson Mandela in public in Xhosa, Nelson Mandela’s mother tongue.

Taylor Martin
[28:59] I didn’t know that part.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[29:01] Yeah, can you change people who you perceive as being evil or morally corrupt? Can you get to that level? Yes, you can. Can we all do it? Is it easy? No, absolutely not, but is it possible? Yes, it’s possible. I truly this is one of the things that drives me is to never say, “Oh, they’re just evil. They’re just bad people.” Never give up. Just keep focusing on how can we negotiate with Goliath rather than trying to smack his eye.

Taylor Martin
[29:32] The last ten minutes we’ve been talking about what I think is a common denominator is emotions. How do you control your emotions? Because your emotions can dictate you going down the wrong path or the wrong thinking. I feel like that’s got to be a struggle for people that you’re working with.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[29:52] The interesting thing is that there’s one misconception in there already which is we don’t control our emotions. We replace negative emotions with positive ones. That’s where things like compassion training come in, where things like breathing exercise that teach you that inner balance come in. Basically, to build two things, one, the faith that you’re in charge, and second, the compassion that is stronger than the negative emotions you could have, which is, for example, anger, which could be fear, too, or which could be, and this is actually the very, very worst of them, disgust. Sorry, if I could just go into the science there a little bit. There’s a guy called Antonio Damasio. Antonio Damasio did a lot of research on the physical, how do you say, the neurophysiological foundations of how our emotions work. What he found, and this is in the mid-90s, is that pretty much every decision you make has an emotional component. It’s not logic versus emotions. It’s what kind of emotion is guiding your behavior and your decision-making processes. That’s what it’s about. Then there’s also Robert Sapolsky, who does a lot of free lectures that you can see online on YouTube, Robert Sapolsky basically also reinforces Damasio by saying that the brain areas that control emotions and the brain areas that control your rational thinking are so interconnected that it's not possible to have purely rational thought without emotional guidance.

Taylor Martin
[31:36] Yeah, I agree with that. You mentioned online. I want to know more about your classes that you’re doing online. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ben Kimura-Gross
[31:44] Yeah, absolutely. Before I talk about the classes, I think what’s useful for most people is to figure out where do I stand, what do I need, what do I want. The easiest way to do that is to go to my website, negotiating-with-goliath.com, and download the eBook, the free eBook that I offer there. Look through that. See what of it is interesting to you, what fits what you think you want to learn. Then you can decide whether you want to take a short automated course, which is a seven-lesson video course, or whether you want to learn something more intense and with more live interaction, which is a six-week course that I have. I think the next cohort I’m going to start in late January or early February.

Taylor Martin
[32:35] Can you tell us a little bit about the courses themselves? What’s in there?

Ben Kimura-Gross
[32:39] The seven-lesson course is designed mainly for sustainability leaders who are working as employees in companies. It’s basically focused around the topic of getting from what to why, meaning in negotiations we say getting from positions to interests. What do you want and why do you want it? What’s your deeper underlying interest? It’s a seven-lesson video course. Each video is about 15 to 20 minutes. It’s pretty quick. Some of the worksheets that you can do on that course, they ask you to really think about what you really want, what your strategic goals are, not just what you’re being told and those kinds of things. I think you can reach some pretty deep level changes already with just that seven-lesson course in your negotiating style.

The six-week course is mainly designed for people who are in decision-making positions and they want to get better at pushing for the decisions that they believe are really truly sustainable, regenerative, circular, whatever their focus is. That six-week course has six live sessions once a week. It has a daily audio file that you get sent by email. In the morning, you listen to a two-minute audio and then you have a 30-second task. It’s just to basically build those routines and reflexes that I was talking about before, which is I think one of the difficulties with training negotiation in any kind of setting, even when you’re doing it live in a big company with 20 people or something like that. How do you get people to change their habits and their routines? It doesn’t happen on one day on one seminar day or something like that. It has to be triggered again and again and again. That’s what these, what I call, the embed audios are there for. That’s another component of that six-week course. Of course, it comes with the appropriate worksheets and reflections and all that kind of stuff that will help you actually apply what you learned to your specific situations.

Taylor Martin
[34:42] That’s awesome.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[34:43] Those are the two courses that I’m offering right now. What I would love to do at some point in the future is a MOOC, one of those massive open online courses.

Taylor Martin
[34:54] Oh, okay. Maybe that might be in your future.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[34:58] Yeah, because for me, what I really, really want, and this is the reason also why I switched, not only away from the kinds of companies that I was working for before to sustainable leaders and green tech leaders, but I also switched from working in typical corporate, let’s rent a big conference center or a room or conference room and get 20 people in and get active for a day, switch away from that and towards online trainings, which I’m fascinated by what’s possible online, for example, with the micro learning elements and all that kind of stuff. Because I believe that the kind of impact that is necessary is probably going to happen online. How do you create learnings about negotiating, especially about compassionate conflict, how do you create those kinds of learnings on a scale that you don’t reach 20 people in a room? You reach 20,000 people. That’s one of the things that I’m really, really hoping for is that, however the negotiation skills that I’m now teaching in English and online and internationally, however that moves in the right direction, I hope that I can scale it somehow. Because I think it’s valuable to a lot of people and MOOC is the thing that I can think of that makes it more scalable.

Taylor Martin
[36:15] This brings it all back to full circle. Like I said earlier at the beginning of the podcast, what you’re doing is you’re pushing your thumb on the scale to push that along to get a little boost to make these changes. I think that’s great. I hope that our listeners – you can look in the show notes for the link directly to his online courses. Ben, is there any other insight that you want to give our sustainability leaders out there that you know they probably need to hear but they haven’t?

Ben Kimura-Gross
[36:42] There’s actually something quite unusual about the way that people react during a negotiation depending on what time of day it is. I think many people don’t know that. There’s been research that shows that, okay, you’ve got judges. Judges, they do what? They pass judgment. They make decisions. They make very big decisions about people’s lives. The kinds of judges that I’m talking about here are probation judges. They decide whether a criminal gets to leave prison earlier or needs to remain. One interesting research shows that probation judges making decisions just before lunch allowed the criminals out of jail five times less than probation judges making decisions just after lunch. Now, what does this tell us about negotiations? First of all, it tells us how important it is to choose the right setting and the right timing. It also tells us why so many really, really good negotiations take place in social settings where there’s either drink or food and how sometimes the worst thing you can do is book a timeslot for negotiation at 11:30 before lunch. Because the brain is starved of energy.

This is something that Sapolsky also talks about, Robert Sapolsky, one of my favorite physiologists who talks about how our physiology, the way we’re built and the way we behave interact. What he says is people have a tendency to try and find a balance between prosocial and skeptical behavior. Prosocial behavior being behavior that basically sends a lot of trust towards other people and skeptical doesn’t trust. When the brain runs out of energy before lunch, we become less sociable. We become more skeptical. Actually, the balance between other brain areas that would lead to prosociality and the amygdala, which leads to fear-based behavior, that balance is a little bit off, you could say, meaning a more strongly engaged amygdala makes us more suspicious and cautious, which leads to the probation officers not granting parole to the criminals just before lunch. The same probation officers, right? We’re not talking about different people but they’re behaving as if they were different people. I think one thing that many people underestimate is the importance of timing and setting in a negotiation or the timing and setting for a negotiation.

Taylor Martin
[39:22] That’s really insightful.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[39:26] That’s something you can implement real easy, right? Just choose a better time, just choose a better setting.

Taylor Martin
[39:33] Now I want to check out your online courses. I want to get through all this and learn all these tricks of the trade you have.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[39:40] Please do, yeah.

Taylor Martin 
[39:42] Ben, thank you so much for being on today. We’ve covered a lot of ground. I really appreciate you sharing your insights, experience, and leveling us up in this area. It really has provoked me to think differently about negotiations in ways I never have before. Thank you, sir.

Ben Kimura-Gross
[39:59] Thank you very much for having me on.

Taylor Martin
[40:01] You mentioned that people can follow you on LinkedIn, yes?

Ben Kimura-Gross
[40:04] That’s right, yeah. My main social platform that I’m active on is LinkedIn, yes.

Taylor Martin
[40:09] Excellent, and I put his link to his online courses in the show notes. You can find him there. I hope you guys enjoyed this show today. Over and out, everybody. 

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[40:19] Thanks for tuning into the Triple Bottom Line. Your host, Taylor Martin, is founder and Chief Creative of Design Positive, a strategic branding and accessibility agency. Interested in being interviewed on our podcast? Then visit designpositive.co and fill out our contact form. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, we would appreciate a review on Apple podcasts or whatever provider you are logging in from. This podcast is prepared by Design Positive and is not associated with any other entity. We look forward to having you back for another installment of the Triple Bottom Line.

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