Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 10 / OCTOBER 1984 / PAGE 92

Expert systems; use your microcomputer to better understand yourself and others. (evaluation) David H. Ahl.

Expect advice. The human edge. Understanding people. That doesn't soud like the stiff of microcomputers. Indeed, a recent survey found that many executives don't use computers because they feel their jobs deal with people and computers have nothing to offer them. These executives describe their jobs in terms of power, judgment, and interpersonal skills rather than numbers or things.

Until recently, these executives were right on target. but within the past year things have changed dramatically--in both hardware and software. In hardware, 1983 saw the advent of the notebook computer, a forgiving, easy to learn, easy to use, go-anywhere machine. And in software, we are beginning to see programs that go beyond accounting, spreadsheets, and word processors, programs that begin to touch upon human interactions, negotiations, and the emotional side of management. The Negotiation edge

How would you like to enter your next negotiating situation armed with a seven-page document outlining a recommended strategy for success? I recently spent ten minutes before an important financial negotiating session with a new computer program from Human Edge Software. I was rewarded with a document that told me.:

"Mr. Jack Mellon will greet you in a cordial, professional manner. Like you, he is confident about his skills and likely to be knowledgeable about the issues under negotiation. He holds strong opinions and is not easily persuaded. This could pose a problem as you, too, are steadfast in your ideas. In order to avoid this, you may have to be flexible and show some acceptance of his position.

"You are both risk-takers and enjoy dealing with a tough competitor. This can be a very engaging, as well as profitable negotiation for you if you can avoid angry confrontations. stubbornness is a quality you both share which makes arguing pointless."

Following this brief introduction were two pages on planning a negotiating approach including sections on the anticipated couterpart position, details of recommended tactics and strategies. In this section, I was told that Mr. Mellon may use unfair tactics and that it might be worthwhile for me to create an emotional distraction.

Another single-spaced page recommended the approach to take during the actual process of negotiating. With Mr. Mellon, for example, I was advised to avoid deadlocks. "The two of you can be unyielding times. If you reach an impasse, the simple tactic of taking turns can be used to please all parties. . ." I was also advised to stop stalls with deadlines, avoid threats, give minimal asnwers, and use Mr. Mellon's shortcomings to my advantage.

Finally, a one-page section discussed bringing the negotiations to a successful close. I was advised to push Mr. Mellon to settle quickly, use ultimatums as a last resort, make an offer Mr. Mellon couldn't refuse (always good advice), and tie up loose ends. Each of these pieces of advice was backed up by a paragraph describing the likely outlook of both parties and their reactions to various alternative strategies.

Following this five-page negotiation strategy report was a 1-1/2-page summary of the key points titled, Negotiation Game Plan. This was not just a repeat of the subheads in the strategy report but a summary of the key action points: "Find out if Mr. Mellon's time is really limited. Put pressure on Mr. Mellon to make the first offer. Discuss sensitive issues briefly. Meet resistance by examining the consequences of a failure to agree." In all, there were 15 action points in the game plan.

Using the program is simple. Pop the program disk and data disk into an IBM PC. A colorful menu appears. First step: answer a series of 108 questions about yourself. You need do this only once. Then, you are presented with a series of descriptive adjectives; One keystroke says either, "Yes, this describes may opponent" or "No, it doesn't." As I mentioned above, ten minutes saw me through both sections. Then I selected the printout section, the results of which were described above.

Is the package worth $295? Well, while it won't get the same daily use as a word processor or spreadsheet, if you use it just once, the program will pay for itself. I was tempted to say "use it successfully," but frankly I can't imagine it not being successful. Ralated Family Members

Instead of describing the other members of the Human Edge family in detail, I think a story tells it better. I recently met a young person (X) whose identity will remain secret. X confided that he/she used The Sales Edge program prior to asking for a promotion. "I wasn't really expecting it," said X, "and I was astonished when I walked away from the meeting with both a promotion and a raise. The package really works!" 'Nuff said?

The third package in the business series is The Managementn Edge, a program designed to help increase motivation, solve conflicts, tackle behavior problems, boost productivity, improve supervisory techniques, and influence superiors. Mind Prober

Combining their extensive experience in the motivations of business negotiations with the interpretation of psychological tests, the principals of Human Edge Software have written a program for practically anyone who would like to create a psychological profile of himself or someone else.

As input, it uses an expanded list of adjectives like that used in the second part of the Negotiation package. Generally, after talking with someone (job candidate, peer, friend, or foe) for about one-half hour you will be able to answer most of the descriptive adjectives with a yea or may. Not all will be absolutely accurate--they never are--but enough probably will be that the program will have adequate information with which to formulate a reasonably accurate profile of the other person.

This profile is formulated by placing the variables in a matrix, one dimension of which is the five basic factors. These include supremacy (leadership, extrovert vs. introvert, and the like); kindness/aggressiveness; emotional stability (do you worry a great deal or are you stable?); conscientiousness/impulsiveness; and a fifth variable which includes culture and intellect--sort of how smart you are and how you apply your skills (would you rather build models or heal people?).

The evaulation matrix hs rules and heuristics similar to those that have been in use for years in psychological testing. Once applied, you get a two-page analysis--video or printed--of the subject. Paragraphs describe his career and job involvement, likes and dislikes in other people, personal values, and even his likely attitude toward sex.

For example, about an associate we learned that "Peter often dives into new projects before finishing old ones. He has many irons in the fire, wants to succeed and enjoys bring on the fast track.

"Peter has a strong need to seek out excitement in his life, but has difficulty telling others what he needs or wants.

"Peter is a non-conformist--prefering to rebel against authority and social convention ... Peter loves to do what is shocking and forbidden, and likes to show off his sexual prowess.

The Mind Prober package includes a book with seven chapters which describe the basis of expert-based psychological systems, how you can "read" and analyze people and why you should (or shouldn't).

There is more, but this should give you an idea of what you can expect from Mind Prober. VisiCalc may be the reason you bought your computer, but Mind Prober certainly puts the little beats in a new light, doesn't it?

Products: The Negotiation Edge (computer program)
Mind Prober (Computer program)