Tuesday, November 16, 2010


As for so many people, Harvard Business School figures into my life. Six Degrees of Harvard Business School, right? ("Oh, you know/dated/are related to/had dinner with somebody who attended/teaches at/works at HBS? How about that? Me, too.") What do they teach there? Well, among other things--such as the place to order flowers from when you are completely clueless about such things and have never been to Eli's Flowers--they teach negotiation.

Ah, negotiation.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, that handy little book, states, The purpose of negotiating is to serve your interests. The chance of that happening increases when you communicate them. . . How do you discuss interests constructively without getting locked into rigid positions?

From the section "Invent Options for Mutual Gain": If the first impediment to creative thinking is premature criticism, the second is premature closure. By looking from the outset for the single best answer, you are likely to short-circuit a wiser decision-making process in which you select from a large number of possible answers. [Ed. note: Nice energy metaphor in there.]

Is this considered wonky? Or hooey (because people are mammals)? Do people in the real world really go around considering themselves problem solvers, as opposed to either friends or adversaries? Do people really separate the people from the problem not just once but over and over until it's a new habit? Not on their own, I don't think. Maybe if they learn negotiation skills at HBS.

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