Our Approach

Just twenty-five years ago, courses on negotiation were rarely taught in management schools or in executive education programs. Now they are one of the most sought-after courses in business schools throughout the world. Negotiation courses are also tremendously popular in law schools and schools of public policy and government. Why? Because in our increasingly complex, diverse, and dynamic world, negotiation is being seen as the most practical and effective mechanism we have for allocating resources, balancing competing interests, and resolving conflicts of all kinds. Current and future managers, lawyers, politicians, policy makers, and consumers all want and need to know how to get better outcomes in their negotiations and disputes. Negotiation is, perhaps now more than ever, an essential skill for success in all areas of life.

Why, then, do so many people continue to negotiate ineffectively? In our work as educators and consultants, one of the biggest problems we’ve encountered is the pervasive belief that people are either good or bad at negotiation, and little can be done to change that. We could not disagree more. In addition, too many people–including many seasoned dealmakers–think of negotiation as being all art and no science; as a result, they rely on gut instinct or intuition as they negotiate. But gut instinct is not a strategy. Nor is “shooting from the hip” or “winging it.”

We offer a more systematic and effective approach. This approach leverages the latest research in negotiation and dispute resolution, the experience of thousands of our clients and executive students, and our own experience as negotiators, consultants, and educators. It has been challenged and refined in our MBA and executive education courses at the Harvard Business School and in our work with over fifty major corporations in more than twenty-five countries. The resulting framework will help you minimize your reliance on intuition, increase your understanding and use of proven strategies, and achieve superior negotiated outcomes consistently.

We also aim to dispel the notion that negotiating effectively is as simple as achieving “win-win agreements.” If you’re like many of the executives we’ve worked with, you’ve had the experience of wanting to bargain in good faith for a mutually rewarding outcome, only to find that the other party is playing hardball, behaving unethically, or negotiating entirely in their own self-interest. Or you may have found yourself negotiating from a position of weakness, dealing with someone who was not sophisticated enough to negotiate effectively, or sitting across from someone who did not have the authority to negotiate the kind of deal you wanted. How does the “win-win” principle help you in these situations? In complex negotiations, which might include multiple parties, great uncertainty, threats of litigation, heightened emotions, and seeming irrationality, it may not even be clear what “win-win” really means. Because such complexities are commonplace, you must deal with them systematically. This book will provide you with the tools you need to do exactly that. In other words, while preserving the virtues of a win-win mind-set, we will help you understand how to strategize effectively when “win-win” won’t save you.