The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

MLDP Recap: Problem Solving, Decision Making and Negotiation

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Read a student's account of our most recent session in our Management Leadership and Development program below. For more information, about MLDP, click here.

In this session we worked with Professor John Garvey of the Daniel Webster Honors Scholar Program. Professor Garvey typically teaches courses that provide rigorous preparation for the Bar Exam and involve active learning of negotiation and problem solving techniques. Garvey applied this knowledge to our session by mixing lecture components, group activities, and appropriate clips from movies.
Garvey began the session by describing how the three topics – problem solving, decision making, and negotiation - relate to each other. Problems can be solved individually or by groups, but those involving groups usually require some negotiations. Decisions are always a part of rectifying any issues. Garvey defined negotiation as multiple parties seeking “agreement when some interests are shared and some are opposed.” If all interests are shared, then no negotiation is necessary, but if there is no overlap of interests, then negotiation will not be productive, as the sides do not have an incentive to cooperate.
Professor Garvey presented many different styles of negotiation to us. These include the ‘hardball’ style, threatening, and joint problem-solving. To emphasize this, he played a clip from True Grit that displayed classic ‘horse-trading.’ While it was insightful as far as the back and forth between parties, Garvey felt that the rapid exchange was unrealistic for the real world. In real negotiations it’s important to attempt to find common ground ‘breakthroughs,’ identify the other parties’ interests, and avoid becoming too emotional. While most negotiations work, it’s important to have a ‘walkaway’ point beforehand; otherwise, it’s easy to wind up with a bad deal.
A final exercise brought the session full circle. Professor Garvey had us split into small groups to attempt to solve a problem we had. Each student presented a problem from their perspective, the opposing parties’ perspective, and finally a neutral one by physically changing positions. This helped us see the different opinions and apply this knowledge to resolving the conflict. As most negotiations will involve people with whom you’re in some kind of relationship, its’ important to step into their shoes and work together.
-Brandon DeBot '14

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