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Feeling lucky?

Florence Kennedy Rolland, Lead Tutor

Faculty Blog

On a recent trip abroad I read an article in an in-flight magazine about how luck is valued in business. Many successful individuals have had (good) luck – whether a chance meeting, being in the right place at the right time, or a connection who can help them take advantage of a situation - play a large part in their success.

English: Four coloured 6 sided dice arranged i...

By Diacritica (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Can we rely on luck? Certainly not. But luck can’t be ignored as a factor in business success.

Can it also play a part in negotiation?

There are certainly many stories of success in negotiation that are not replicable because they were the result of luck. My favourite example is that of a businessman who made a career in negotiation out of a coincidence. He had been at an IBM conference before going to pick up a hire car later that day and accidentally let his conference badge, emblazoned with the IBM logo, slip out. Fortunately for him the rental company had a deal with IBM for a 20 per cent discount, and staff immediately reduced his bill.

However, his success was totally unreplicable for anyone without an IBM badge (the majority of the population). This was not a skill that could guarantee success: it was pure luck.

The same can be said for many negotiation ‘war stories’ that have a good ending. (You never hear about the ones that don’t have a happy outcome.) In negotiation you can get lucky, people will make mistakes, and ploys and tricks can bring a quick gain, but these things cannot be relied upon.

So be lucky, by all means, but it’s better to be prepared.