The spirit of Kellogg: research and teaching
Professor Jeanne Brett
Brett, the DeWitt W. Buchanan Jr. Distinguished Professor
of Dispute Resolution and Organizations, and Director of the
Dispute Resolution Research Center (DRRC), initiated Kellogg's
course in negotiations in 1981. She instituted the school's
cross-cultural negotiations course in 1997. An industrial/organizational
psychologist, Professor Brett recently spoke with Kellogg
World about her research and the DRRC.
about the Dispute Resolution Research Center and how it fits
into Kellogg's academic context. What does it add and enhance
here at the school, and what are some primary functions of
Jeanne Brett: The center was conceived to support research
on dispute resolution very broadly defined, so we fund research
in competitive decision making and negotiations, as well as
conflict. We study these problems between organizations, within
organizations, in teams and in dyads. We were supporting work
on negotiating in teams, but most of that work now comes under
the KTAG [Kellogg Team and Group Research Center] umbrella,
the other center.
of the center over the years has been in studying cognitive
biases that negotiators have, or what my Kellogg colleague
Lee Thompson calls "major sins of negotiation" like
leaving money on the table, winner's curse, agreement bias
-- all these things that really keep negotiators from doing
as well as they could.
these "sins" readily identified before you started
studying them, or did you and your colleagues put them on
of cognitive biases on negotiators was identified by [former
Kellogg Professors] Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale and their
students, Leigh Thompson being one of them. That research
was absolutely groundbreaking. It appears in the Management
and Organizations curriculum in the core course as well as
in the decision making and negotiations courses. Behavioral
finance is now paying close attention to these biases that
affect judgment and decision making.
other research is associated with the Dispute Resolution Research
affiliated with the center really do study disputes and disputing.
A dispute is a rejected claim. In the late 1980s, Bill Ury
and Steve Goldberg and I were studying wildcat strikes in
the coal industry and we came up with the interests, rights,
and power framework for resolving disputes. The original work
was done in labor management. The cases we studied were extremely
volatile: wildcat strikes, drive-by shootings, bomb threats.
We extracted the dispute resolution theory from studying those
highly distressed relationships. But the concept of systems
design is now applied very broadly, not just in labor-management
relationships. Government has used the research in a lot of
situations where they take a systems design approach to figure
out how to deal with an array of related conflicts, the S&L
bailouts, for instance, were handled this way. The theoretical
framework is now widely used to teach conflict management
and dispute resolution negotiations, as well as to design
systems for resolving disputes, and to intervene in highly
distressed conflict situations. There is a whole field of
consultants who call themselves systems designers. These people
develop systems for containing and directing conflict to resolution
following the principles we initially developed.
about electronic negotiations. E-mail can certainly come across
as stark even under the most innocuous circumstances, let
alone when laden with any sort of emotional content. Have
center researchers worked much with e-mail negotiations?
Thompson has been studying emotions in negotiations, specifically
how emotional contagion leads negotiators to depart from rationality.
As part of that work she has studied how negotiating via e-mail
differs from other types of negotiations. Relationships make
a difference, she finds, and one big surprise that she has
been following up has to do with how males and females differ
when negotiating via e-mail.
have you been doing since the wildcat strike studies?
My recent research is investigating negotiations in a global
cross-cultural context. I'm interested in how people in different
cultures deviate from what we as Westerners assume is standard
you provide a snapshot of what goes on in that realm of global
negotiations and what insights you have gained from your research
in this area? I know you have recently published your text
titled Negotiating Globally: How to Negotiate Deals, Resolve
Disputes, and Make Decisions Across Cultural Boundaries.
for moving negotiation theory cross-culturally has three elements
to it: one is that when you're in the same national culture,
the economic, political, social and ideological institutions
are constant. When you cross national boundaries, the people
you're dealing with are coming out of a different cultural
context; their laws are different, their priorities are different
and so are their values. All this becomes reflected in the
positions they take on issues in negotiation.
language and nuances are made more problematic.
but more than language and the fundamental assumptions about
what is important may be different. The context you come out
of impacts the positions you take in negotiations. If you're
coming out of China where many elements of a market are fixed,
and another person is coming out of America where many elements
of the market are variable, you have a problem to bridge that
difference and an opportunity to do so. The question of fixed
versus variable pricing will surface. Issues of currency and
political stability come up. Questions about where the big
margins are. You're going off to find new and more lucrative
markets, but those markets are often in politically unstable
countries, so you've got a risk element to contend with. Enron
in India is a good example of this. They keep having all kinds
of problems getting paid for the electric power they've been
to understand that when you're negotiating your position is
dependant on the context out of which you come. Operating
with that awareness, you can be much more respectful, and
perhaps more creative, when making proposals.
Is that the crux of overcoming the challenges of cross-cultural
negotiations -- understanding the other person's point of
negotiations, the key element is to get behind the positions
to the interests and understand the why. In cross-cultural
negotiations, the "why" is often tied to the institutional
environment from which you come. The other challenge of cross-cultural
negotiations is that people from different cultures use different
negotiating strategies. We have found that the goals people
approach the table with are different in different parts of
the world. There are areas of the world where collective goals
are much more important than individual goals. Then in other
parts of the world -- primarily the Western countries -- individual
goals are preeminent and collective goals are considered to
secondary. You get very different results when you're focusing
on individual goals versus collective goals in negotiations.
found that social structure in some cultures is relatively
flat, egalitarian and permeable, while in other cultures the
structure is hierarchical, and quite fixed. These differences
have strong implications for how people view power. In a hierarchical
cultures, power is a function of status, but with status comes
responsibility. The high-power parties see their social responsibility
as taking care of the low-power parties. Whereas in an egalitarian
society, parties have to look out for themselves and cannot
expect others to take responsibility for their welfare. There's
some interesting implications of this difference. Which society
you prefer may depend on whether you are currently powerful
or currently weak.
how many people are aware of this, and especially the subtleties
of cross-cultural negotiations.
know that cultures differ, but are less certain about the
implications for negotiation. We've been able to demonstrate
the implications more clearly, I think, than anybody else.
And beyond that, the way people communicate varies. Western
cultures tend to be direct communicators, meaning, you ask
me a question and I give you an answer. In Eastern cultures,
the communication is much more indirect and nuanced. So instead
of giving you an answer, maybe I tell you a story about what
my meaning was. That difference has strong implications for
negotiation. We're trying to teach people to "expand
the pie" when negotiating, not to leave money on the
table, and to use all the resources possible. To do that,
I have to know about your preferences and you have to know
about mine and how they differ. If you come from a culture
that speaks indirectly and I come from a culture that speaks
directly, I may reveal more to you than you do to me. This
asymmetric information may allow you to claim value.
Let's hope that at the top levels of government and politics
we have people who are aware of these things. The implications
given a breakdown in cross-cultural negotiations could, of
course, be devastating.
That's right. On the political front there's a lot of negotiation
communication being done in writing. In business communication
we tend to want to have deal to happen fast and we want them
done face-to-face. Westerners like the Q&A format. I assume
you're telling me the truth until it's proven you're not.
Easterners communicate in different ways. They'll put proposals
on the table, or they will want a proposal from you. They
tend to assume you are untrustworthy until you prove yourself.
There may be a very different interpersonal environment.
That's fascinating. What keeps you interested in your research
What keeps it fresh is that there are always more questions
to ask. I was very interested in dispute resolution negotiations,
but I was also teaching deal making negotiations. Around 1990,
and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Kellogg faculty, including
myself, started getting lots of invitations to teach around
the world in cultural environments such as Russia, India,
Europe, Thailand, Japan, China. I became very concerned that
what we knew about negotiation strategy and negotiators' behavior
was culture bound. I was worried about teaching what we knew
about negotiations that was based on studies done in the United
States. This concern motivated me to start a cross cultural
deal making negotiation project.
That must have been something of a revelation, to see how
much more vast the realm of your inquiry could be, and how
much more profound the ramifications of that inquiry could
right. And what we learned in the early 1990s was how to do
research on negotiations in a cross-cultural environment.
It took us a while to figure out how to do it and get good
data, but what we learned was that culture matters. Culture
matters in that there is more than one way to get to the same
deal -- which we knew in an intuitive way from our U.S. culture
studies, but not nearly so clearly as we learned in our first
set of studies comparing U.S. and Japanese managers.
step back a little and get your opinion about how teaching
at Kellogg has helped enabled you to advance your research
agenda. What is it about the culture of innovation here that
helps foster the research and motivate faculty to work together
and apart on projects?
answer is that there is a synergy between research and the
classroom. We learn from observing and systematically collecting
data on students negotiating. What we learn we give back to
the students in strategic knowledge that helps them improve
their negotiation outcomes. When you can take your research
into the classroom you are giving the students the best learning
experience they can possibly hope for: cutting edge knowledge.
What distinguishes Kellogg from other business schools that
teach negotiation, is that the knowledge was invented here.
Very few of our competitors can say that. I first started
teaching negotiations at Kellogg in 1981. I took the course
that was being taught at the Harvard Law School and wrote
the lawyers out of the exercises. I was one exercise ahead
of my 17 students that first year. I knew I had a subject
that I loved to teach and that was very challenging. I had
no idea that the students liked it that much. I was completely
surprised when I walked into the classroom the second time
we offered the course and had students hanging from the rafters..
This was before we had all the computers, so I didn't have
a class list to let me gauge enrollment! I had a now-infamous
negotiation with Dean Jacobs about how to serve all the students
who wanted the course. He agreed to let me train some advanced
PhD students and coach them through teaching the course. Today,
of course we have a group of PhD students and post docs, who
are interested in negotiation research, and whom we train
to teach the course.
courses come and go or change their focus over time based
in part on market demands, but it sounds like this aspect
of the Kellogg curriculum has really proven itself consistently
valuable over the long haul.
been around for a while. Negotiations is a fundamental skill
that everybody needs.
In personal life as well as professionally.
To have a framework and strategy that's more formal provides
an awful lot of leverage in all kinds of interpersonal interactions.
The course turned out to respond to a very strong need that
was just initially unidentified. When we started teaching
this material in 1981, only two other business schools in
the country were teaching it the way we were; now everybody
teaches it the way we do. And Kellogg faculty have actually
taught most of those other professors how to teach the material.