Balancing the head and heart in partnerships

Proportion
Categories: Blog

“Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats; they can do it, but they’d prefer not to” Daniel Kahneman

When you head to your favourite restaurant, you survey the delicious menu hungrily- and then order the same thing you had last time. For me, it’s the same experience in the supermarket. I make a list for the week and then revert to the same brands. My basket looks broadly similar each week, with a familiar array of cereals, cookies and tinned tomatoes. Given the dizzying array of options on offer, why am I not making the most of the variety?

According to Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, humans have two core systems that are often in conflict with each other. It’s the constant balance between ‘head and heart’. Understanding how to manage that balance will give you the competitive edge in winning partnerships.

System 1 is our intuition, preferences, perceptions and gut reaction. It’s our automatic and innate reaction to things and we have almost no control over it. Consider it our emotional autopilot.

System 2 drives learned skills such as reading or driving and how to understand the nuance of social situations. System 2 kicks in when we require continuous mental exertion or something that doesn’t come easily. You have to pay attention, or you’ll perform poorly.

Why is this relevant to partnerships?

Building your skills

When you’re learning to drive, you’ll use more of System 2, but once you’re competent and experienced the skills become subconscious- a System 1 innate skill. How often have you arrived home and parked the car but can’t recall anything about the journey? But if you’re driving an unfamiliar route then System 2 kicks in again and you have to concentrate.

Partnership teams need to work on their skills and constantly practice, learn and refresh. This is especially true of acquisition skills, as prospecting for new partners can often be relegated to the too hard, do it later basket. If you work on building your skills, they become innate and intuitive. It makes you fluent and confident in front of prospective corporates and more likely to get a successful outcome. Mastering partnership skills will make you hungry to learn more- and keep that pipeline of opportunities growing.

Decision making

System 2 is how we think we make decisions- slow, rational and deliberate, with an organised approach and logical steps.  In reality, System 1 is constantly generating suggestions for System 2, by providing intuitions, intentions and feelings. System 2 turns those intuitions and impressions into belief and actions. It’s really about post-rationalising the final decision.  This is how advertising works; it gets the audience to reach a conclusion before System 2 kicks in. Otherwise, Sharon wouldn’t be winning gold medals for online shopping and would have take a rational approach to why she needs a ceramic pineapple for her fish tank.

Understanding how your partner will make decisions can help you influence the outcome. You need to give them an emotional experience that ignites System 1 before you load them up with rational detail. We know that you’ve got lots of facts, figures and evidence- based research about your cause. Hold back on the data and get them engaged emotionally first. Then the data is useful as they seek to rationalise their decision to partner with you. Also, don’t forget they’ll probably have to convince their CFO to release the budget and they are definitely looking at things with System 2 fully activated!

Pitching and collateral

We often see pitch decks and credentials documents that are crammed full of details, history of the organisation and program language. Organisations that are still using the gold, silver, bronze packaged approach fill it with every possible benefit they can offer. But behavioural science shows that humans don’t like to think too hard. If you overload them, they become overwhelmed with the tyranny of choice- a bit like me in the cereal aisle of the supermarket. You can improve your pitch collateral with a few simple actions:

  • Less is more- can you use one or two carefully chosen facts or statistics to make your case?
  • Don’t cram the document full of information
  • Create content that stirs emotions
  • Tell stories and draw people in emotionally
  • Use visuals or infographics- they’re much easier to process than text
  • Keep it simple, truthful and engaging

Success in partnerships is all about balancing the head and the heart; the intuitive, emotional heart and the rational and deliberate head. Understanding how they work together will give you the secret recipe for partnership success.

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