Quartz transcribes some emails between Steve Jobs and James Murdoch on the subject of ebook pricing, with the gloss of “Steve Jobs wins a negotiation.” Several people on the Hacker News thread have a different gloss: “it’s easy to win negotiations when you hold all the cards.”
The thing is, it’s not a card game, and your position isn’t random. Jobs won that negotiation by doing the necessary set-up work to make sure that he was in the advantageous position. This is a vastly undervalued skill. People respect “negotiation skill,” but my feeling is that if you’re good at the fundamental skills of building a solid, powerful business, you’ll win a lot more negotiations than if you’re good at horse-trading.
Actually, the other skill that sounds trivial but isn’t is “recognizing when you hold all the cards and refusing to negotiate just for negotiation’s sake.” I’m bad at this. From all reports, Steve Jobs may have been a grand master.