The Most Desirable Business Schools

The Art of Negotiation for Executive MBA Students

Negotiation has long been an important aspect of business. Now, it’s being implemented into the actual curriculum for executive MBAs.

Janina Conboye recently wrote a Financial Times article discussing how exactly EMBAs are learning to negotiate both within the classroom and beyond.

There’s a difference between negotiating and negotiating effectively, says Conboye. “Effective negotiation, say a number of specialist business school professors, is rooted in the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand the context in which you are negotiating. This applies to a government trade deal, a business contract or a sales agreement. To negotiate well also requires that you communicate clearly and be patient.”

Catherine Tanneau is an adjunct professor and EMBA leadership course leader at HEC Paris. Tanneau tells Financial Times that negotiation skills are critical for EMBAs.

“It is more than a technical skill,” she says. “It is a core component of leadership.”

Schools are Incorporating Negotiation Courses into their Curriculum

A number of schools already have courses dedicated to teaching students how to negotiate. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, students can take a course in “Negotiation & Decision-Making Strategies.”

Jesse Otis is the director and assistant general manager at TaylorMade-adidas Golf Company. Otis, who recently completed a negotiation course at the University of Chicago, says the course gave him the chance to practice negotiation through simulations and role-play scenarios.

“The course gives you a safe place to practice, to learn the processes to follow and what tactics you can try and then apply,” Otis tells Financial Times. “I learnt that preparation is one of the most important things — learning about your own interests and those of the other parties.”

Ayelet Fishbach

Ayelet Fishbach is a professor of behavioral science and marketing at Booth. She tells the Financial Times that she tries to create a learning environment where students can receive feedback on their negotiation skills.

“Quite often people don’t know if they are a good negotiator or not,” she says. “I have 80 people in a class, 40 buyers and 40 sellers. That kind of feedback is not available in real life.”

There are also a number of negotiation strategies that Fishbach tries to teach her students.

“In some situations, for example, you want to be the first to make an offer,” she tells Financial Times. “But in others you don’t. It’s all about learning to understand these strategies.”

Practicing negotiation in real environments

At NUS Business School in Singapore, the negotiation course is taught across various countries including Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, Delhi, and Jakarta. Financial Times reports that “participants on its power, politics and persuasion course are sent onto the streets of Delhi to learn to negotiate in an unfamiliar environment.”

Prem Shamdasani is the academic director of the NUS EMBA. Shamdasani says one assignment requires students to be sent out with a paperclip and must negotiate for something more valuable. “They come back with fabric and other interesting things,” he tells Financial Times.

Along with learning critical negotiation strategies, Shamdasani says, students learn to negotiate alongside people of various backgrounds and cultures.

Teaching negotiation to EMBAs versus MBAs

While negotiation skills are also an element in MBA applications as well, professors say teaching EMBAs is quite different. For one, EMBAs tend to be older and more experienced than MBA students.

Professor Tanneau of HEC Paris tells Financial Times that her EMBA students are generally older and are “quickly jumping into complex situations, rather than covering the basics.”

Mark De Rond is a professor of organizational ethnography at Cambridge Judge Business School. He tells Financial Times that EMBAs tend to bring more experience into the classroom since they are further ahead in their career than MBAs.

“One student in my class had worked for the UN and was able to talk about what it was like to manage different factions in Libya,” he says.

De Rond tells Financial Times that cultural differences cannot be ignored in the classroom. His class simulations tend to focus on North America, which can create disagreements due to cultural differences, “but we are not quiet about these,” he says. “In fact you can use those limitations to learn.”

Sources: Financial Times, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

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