Like most of us in the negotiation community, I have followed the daily gyrations of the lead-up to the on-again-off-again summit between Trump and Kim with more than academic interest. In fact, I recently agreed to write a chapter about it for an upcoming book on “Negotiations and History”, edited by my friend Emmanuel Vivet at Essec Irené. This one certainly meets that standard.
While the risks of putting my name to anything analytical and predictive about something so volatile and with such a long publication lead time are certainly clear, let me share some of my emerging thoughts in this less judgemental forum:
1. Red or Blue?
My thought piece will be built around RGI’s signature game of Red and Blue, a variation on the Prisoner’s Dilemma that allows participants in our seminars to directly experience the dimensions of Red (collaboration and trust) and Blue (power, strategy and advantage) in negotiation. I intend to graph the dizzying array of Red and Blue moves by both parties, some of them Blue ones disguised as Red, to see if the strategy of each can be discerned. Stay tuned for that.
2. The Limits of Unpredictability.
Especially Trump is often presumed to be following a Nixonian “crazy man” strategy, designed to keep Kim offguard at all times: feigned irrationality. Even if we give him credit for that kind of strategic guile, at this point I am inclined to hope that both parties will eventually stop these machinations and get down to some real communication. When unpredictability becomes predictable, it also becomes tiresome and counterproductive.
3. Who Needs it More?
This fundamental question is still a major determinant of negotiation power. On the face of it, Kim would seem to be weaker here: economically at the end of his rope, his nuclear program presumably now come to a modestly successful conclusion, he really needs to trade it in order to realize his two-track strategy of byungjin development (read the article on Forbes). The unused and untraded weapons are quickly losing their strategic value.
On the other hand, in Trump we have a negotiator with an almost pathological obsession with doing everything differently and upstaging his predecessor, desperate for success, feedback and adulation. Lots of potential for North Korean manipulation there. So I am not sure who has the upper hand here.
In any case, it is time to move to a win-win solution, also for the rest of the world.
Feedback and comments welcome! Stay tuned to rationalgames.com for updates.