Willamette MBA

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Beyond the Lions Share

Students engage in a role playing exercise in negotiating.

You’re about to enter into a negotiation.

Have you calculated your ZOPA?

Have you considered your BATNA?

Have you determined your RV (not the one you camp in)?

These are just a few of the terms you will hear in the Negotiations class taught by Professor Sukhsimranjit Singh. With role-playing exercises and class discussions, students are given hands on experiences in negotiating.

When students were asked to define the term “negotiations” on the first day of class, the consensus was that it was a dialogue between two or more parties intended to reach an agreement. The class went on to identify skills in problem solving, persuasiveness and communication as attributes that make an effective negotiator.

While this description covers the general dynamics, it does not clearly describe the “real world” understanding of negotiations. Negotiations can often be seen as a competition between two or more parties in pursuit of winning the best deal. For instance, during the purchase of a car, the buyer will try to negotiate a lower price while the seller attempts to sell it for as much as possible.

Based on this perception, negotiators will want to arm themselves with the tactics, techniques and tricks to “out-negotiate” any opponent. For this reason, it’s not surprising that many people believe that these are the in-class learning objectives. However, rather then focusing on the competitive side of negotiations, Professor Singh offers a new perspective on the goals of negotiating.

Through class lectures, readings and conversations, students are encouraged to think outside the box. An effort to build relationships and better understand the interests of the other party can lead to more beneficial agreements. In the example of a car purchase, rather than concentrating on capturing the most favorable price, both buyer and seller might benefit  from a more collaborative effort in negotiating. After some information gathering, the purchaser might discover that the seller is emotionally attached to the car and simply wants to find a worthy owner. With this understanding, the buyer can assure the seller that he plans to restore the car. The seller can then offer his services in helping restore the car after purchase. By this method of negotiating, more value is added to each party, which opens the opportunity for a more favorable agreement.

As negotiating is a large part of success in business, it is important for Willamette MBA students to clearly understand the process. While the basic techniques of negotiating are taught in class, students are challenged to go beyond the focus of winning the “lions share.” Instead of being concerned about who will win the biggest piece of the “pie” in a negotiation, a good negotiator will find a way to enlarge the pie for everyone.

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