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One of the things we bang on about in both networking and negotiation workshops is the need to get real information to help avoid bad decision making based on faulty data.

And I’ve just had a reminder of that lesson.

I’m at St Pancras station, ticking off the last few destinations for the ‘book on train’ project. As I stop for a coffee at well known franchise, it occurs to me that leaving one or two books on tables there might encourage finders to whisk them off to exotic locations.

I could easily just plonk a couple of books on tables and make my exit, but wanting to ensure that staff won’t just bin the book with other table waste, I think it prudent to try to get the manager ‘on board’.

The manager listens attentively to my explanation of the project, and seems genuinely interested, but says she is unable to help. The reason, it seems, is an edict from Head Office which dictates that all tables must be cleared of all contents between customers: no exceptions. So while the books might not end up in the waste bin, they would instead be collected up and stored in the crew room as ‘lost property’ (and doubling as reading material for any member of staff keen to improve their networking skills…)

Digging a bit further into the Head Office edict, I discover from the helpful manager that the same applies to all branches. Given that I’d previously been toying with the idea of ‘seeding’ books at other branches of the same chain, the fact that I’ve bothered to engage her in conversation about my project ends up saving me wasted time and effort, plus of course the value of the books themselves.

But there is, of course, the counter-argument which goes like this: “It is better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission.” In this case, it has very definitely paid to ask.