Negotiations and love songs
Are often mistaken for one and the same
Are often mistaken for one and the same
I started my eighth MBA course, Negotiation, a bare week ago, but already we've had four sessions as the timetable calls for one session on Thursday evening and another on Friday morning. This is quite a taxing schedule and it's not clear why this was adopted; I suspect it might be that the lecturer far lives away from Tel Aviv and this schedule minimises his traveling time by allowing him to sleep over in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening. We have six weeks like this (twelve meetings) and one more Friday morning meeting which takes us up to the end of January. There are no lectures whatsoever during February, then there is a revision meeting at the beginning of March and the exam on 10 March. This isn't the sort of schedule which I would have preferred, but as the youth of today say, "Deal with it".
The opening lectures gave an introduction into the subject of negotiation (the text was written by Professor Gavin Kennedy), in which we initially learnt that negotiation is but one of ten ways of resolving disputes (or making decisions). The other ways are refusal, persuasion, problem solving, chance (tossing a coin), arbitration, coercion, postponing, instruction and giving up. The major difference between negotiation and the other methods is that in negotiation, both sides give up something in order to achieve a mutually agreed conclusion, whereas in the other methods, one side gives up nothing and the other side gives up everything.
After this, we learnt about the four stages of negotiation:
The following lecture was about preparing for negotiation; this includes identifying interests, deriving tradables from these interests, prioritising these tradables and then defining entry and exit values for them.
On Thursday night we learnt how to conduct the debate stage of negotiation, which means trying to maximise one's constructive behaviour whilst minimising one's destructive behaviour (I won't list what constructs these behaviours).
I wasn't feeling very well that evening and had to leave halfway through the evening; on Friday morning I was feeling a bit - but not much - better, so I decided to drive to Tel Aviv. Fortunately, we didn't have a lecture - instead we had to simulate a negotiation; the scenario was taken from an old exam paper. The class (very small: we started off at 8am with maybe eight students and the number doubled by 8:30am) divided into two groups, where each group took one side of the negotiation. Each group was tasked with identifying the interests and deriving the tradables etc, as per the earlier paragraph. We were also advised to try and do the same for the opposite side so that we wouldn't been surprised during the negotiation.
During this time, most of my group were silent; only two other people and I contributed to the discussion. This was slightly annoying as I was having difficulty in speaking and had to maintain a constant infusion of tea. Nevertheless, I and one other were nominated to conduct the negotiation. At least I won't have to do this again in the future.
I won't describe how the simulation went (not that anything extra-ordinary happened); afterwards, everyone else in the class was invited to make comments about what they saw. Unknown to the negotiators, one extra person from each group had been specifically nominated to analyse each team's behaviour (constructive and destructive). Whilst there was a fair amount of constructive behaviour (I was very conscious of all four negotiators being extremely polite, not interrupting and trying to be 'good'), there was also a certain amount of destructive behaviour. What was lacking primarily, though, was a lack of connections between tradables (I'll give you this if you give me that), which made the negotiation problematic.
I will paraphrase a comment made by someone yesterday (who came late): at first, I thought this was going to be a boring exercise, but by the time it had finished, I came to understand the theory much better. Indeed, the criticism brought home how we could have better run the negotiation (in mitigation, I point out that none of us were personally involved, so the other side's reduction of its price by "five million pounds" would not have happened in real life).
The lectures are held in the same room as my previous course, finance (in fact, all my lectures for the past two years have been held in this room). In the previous course, one had to arrive early in order to get a good seat (the lecturer had a quiet voice, so I preferred to be near the front in order to hear her properly). In this course, one can arrive half an hour late, bring two friends and still get a good seat! I'm not sure how many students are actually registered to take the course, but most have only made token appearances. Apart from a 'hard core' of maybe eight who appear every time, the course seems to have attracted a floating set of students who appear now and then. This seems to bother me more than it bothers the lecturer.