The Science (and Art) of Negotiation
Managing involves negotiating – with a teammate who thinks her approach is better, with a boss who wants the project finished before you have time to start it, with a vendor who wants a higher price, or with a customer who is dissatisfied with the product or service. People intuitively engage in the art of negotiation. What many don’t know is that there is a science to negotiating, and that a person trained in the science of negotiation has an edge right from the start.
“The biggest single misconception about negotiation is that only some people can do it well,” says Jeanne Brett, the DeWitt W. Buchanan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Dispute Resolution and Organizations and Director of the Kellogg School’s Dispute Resolution Research Center. “Many people feel you can either do it or you can’t, that it’s an innate talent. Despite all the negotiating they do, many managers feel they are not very good at it. They don’t have confidence that they can negotiate well. They view negotiation as an art. In fact, negotiation is very much a science. What people lack is a systematic framework for understanding the negotiation process.”
Providing the framework for the negotiation process has, for many years, been the heart of Brett’s teaching and research. She and her colleague Leigh Thompson, the J. Jay Gerber Professor of Dispute Resolution & Organizations, teach one of Kellogg’s most sought-after executive education programs, “Negotiation Strategies for Managers.” The three-day program is taught three times each year at the Kellogg School, covering five major topics:
Points of Distinction
A second point of distinction is the continuity of instruction. “Professor Thompson and I are there every time for every class and we have been doing this for a number of years,” says Brett. “We change the exercises, but the core content is very, very stable. As a result, executives from the same organization who might take the negotiation course years apart from one another find that they have a very significant point of connection with one another through their negotiation skill.” “It is a distinct advantage,” says Brett. “They talk in the same language, they are familiar with each other’s approach to strategizing, and they quickly recognize, label and know how to respond to tactics coming across the table at them.”
Context Matters - Cross-Cultural Negotiation
In a worldwide business environment, with negotiation often taking place on-line as opposed to face-to-face, cross-cultural negotiation can present a special challenge. “When you cross cultural boundaries you encounter different priorities and different negotiation strategies,” says Brett. “It can be like ships passing in the night: you can see the other ship’s signals, you know they are signaling you, but you cannot interpret the signals,” she says. “Imagine then how cultural differences could affect the stakes involved in a major business deal.”
Learn Today - Negotiate Today
Over the course of the program, participants engage in six rigorous negotiation exercises. The experience makes such an immediate impact that Brett says she has seen participants putting what they learned in class to work the same day. “They are with us for three days but during that time their work life goes on,” she says. “Many use the skills they learned on Monday when they are catching up with their job Monday evening.”
Following Through to Reinforce Learning
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