Currently Reading: Getting to Yes. The theory of negotiation

CategoriesBookshelf (Study).

This is the book that is suggested via MIT’s Open CourseWare, as the work of¬†Roger Fisher who is the name in negotiation theory.

Fisher, Roger (1991) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

From the syllabus ( ):

This course starts from the observation that the world of planners, managers, lawyers, public officials, analysts, and other professionals is marked by interdependencies, fragmented sources of power, and an uncertain future. In this unruly world, the sources of understanding and stability are often provisional and the ability to learn and to manage change is at a premium. The diversity of our society and work force contributes to conflicts over goals, interests, and frames of reference. These characteristics create an ongoing need for the ability to craft stable agreements that advance interests, build trust, and construct understanding in complex and unstable environments. They create a need for negotiation.

To help you develop the understanding and skills necessary to respond to this challenge, we will explore three insights that currently shape negotiation research, theory, and practice. The insights each describe negotiation as an interactive process. The first insight is that even simple interdependencies create a dynamic environment in which multiple outcomes are possible. The bare fact that a bargain requires the consent of both parties is sufficient to open a complex space for interaction between negotiators. The second insight is that negotiation is rarely a zero-sum process. Negotiators affect not only how value is distributed, but also how much value there is to distribute. The third insight is that negotiation is a social process. Through their interactions, negotiators shape the terms in which they understand problems, their sense of what kind of behavior is fair, appropriate, and desirable, and their ability to trust.

We treat these insights as providing a foundation for the study of negotiation and for negotiation practice, and the bulk of the term is devoted to exploring them. This inquiry is organized around three questions. We will begin the course by exploring situations in which interests are potentially in conflict. We examine how negotiators manage their interactions in strategic bargaining and ask, “Why do we get one deal rather than another?” We move on to situations where negotiations offer (or demand) an exploration of additional degrees of freedom and ask, “How can we affect what’s on the table?” or, alternatively, “How can we create value in a negotiation?” In this section we will consider how negotiators create opportunities for mutual gains that make it possible to resolve negotiations that look intractable and to reach better outcomes where a deal is possible. Finally we turn to the question, “How can we shape the game we play?” Here we take a micro-view of negotiations to analyze how negotiators draw on and shape expectations and roles, build understanding (and misunderstanding), and construct relationships in which trust and cooperation are (at least sometimes) possible in their interactions. We will conclude the term by examining the ways in which introducing history, adding parties, negotiating at multiple levels, and acting in an organizational context influence negotiation practice.

By exploring these questions, we hope to accomplish two goals. First, we hope that you will develop skills that will make you a better negotiator. Second, we hope to help you connect your developing understanding of negotiation to adjacent questions about learning, rationality, ethics, organizational behavior, and other fields. In more substantive terms, this course should help you to diagnose conflict, prepare to negotiate, negotiate purposefully and thoughtfully, and critically evaluate outcomes and experiences.

We will examine a variety of contexts and problems that create a need for negotiation, and raise questions about what it means to negotiate well. We will explore a systematic approach to negotiation that we think constitutes good advice about what to do when your interests or beliefs are in tension with others’ and you cannot act unilaterally. We will also raise other issues that will situate this model in a broader field of intellectual inquiry.

You will have the opportunity to experiment with this approach and to try out alternative approaches in negotiation exercises and case analyses. These exercises form the core of the course. We will use them to examine concepts and analytic approaches. You will also find that the value of these negotiations sometimes exceeds our ability to provide an account. This means that the opportunity is always open to extend our understanding of negotiation. It challenges us individually, and as a group, to provide as clear an account as we can of our experience, to listen carefully, and to reflect critically on our experience. This suggests that you can think about the course as a research seminar, in which the common experience of negotiating with each other provides the substantive basis for our analysis. At the same time, you should expect to finish the course as a more effective negotiator.

At a general level, we will move from negotiations that involve fewer factors to ones that are more complex. By the end of the course, however, we hope that you will appreciate the layered complexity that was involved in what at first appeared to be simple negotiations.