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Negotiation Simulations Prepare Leaders to Close Cross-Cultural Deals

August 28, 2017

As part of Thunderbird’s series of programs to develop globally minded individuals and executives, professors Denis Leclerc and Thomas Kull have designed a four-day course to help mid- to senior-level managers improve their influence and negotiation in global and cross-cultural settings.

Leclerc, a Thunderbird professor of cross-cultural communications and negotiations, and Kull, a W.P. Carey associate professor of supply chain management, are offering the Strategic Global Influence and Negotiation course on Oct. 2-5.

In their second of two Knowledge Network Q&As (read the first one here), Drs. Leclerc and Kull give a preview of what participants can expect to do and learn in the course.

Q: Each of you has a different area of expertise, so how is that built into the course structure?

Leclerc: We co-teach the first session to introduce the concepts and also co-teach some of the last portions. But the rest of the sessions we split up based on our strengths. There’s also a common negotiation activity that we do together. The idea is for this group of executives to take one or two nuggets from each session so they can say, “I could do this in my next negotiation. I can talk to my team about this aspect.” Tom has a great, very practical negotiation he does that is multi-layer, multi-party, so we are able to balance providing our participants with theory as well as application in the activities.

Kull: We have episodes near the end of each session where we play off each other a little bit. There is even a bit of comedy. We try to get participants talking throughout the whole experience. That was a key piece of feedback we got from the last one of these we did – how wonderful it was to be able to interact with all these other experts in the room.

 “The point is to learn new skills and perspectives in each exercise.” Click to tweet

Q: Your course promises plenty of hands-on activities. Could you share an example of an activity?

Kull: We have an activity that is a negotiation simulation called Coffee Trade, with international negotiations of buying and selling coffee. We assign participants to a country like Ethiopia, for example, where they must sell a particular bean. There are other countries as well. We run versions of that during the four days. Then we work on individual, one-on-one conversations. Or we put them in different rooms to solve communications challenges. So people interact with each other in different ways, using different groups and scenarios, and it builds a dialogue throughout the four days. The point is to not learn a new industry in each exercise. The point is to learn new skills and perspectives.

Our in-class exercises and simulations are examples of how experiential learning is infused in the program. We even include an off-site experiential day where students will see instances and talk to practitioners of multi-party negotiations. They will get to hear about the different activities the parties take on and what the parties have to contend with. So they will get some hands-on experience with projects featuring stakeholders outside of ASU.

Leclerc: Imagine the negotiations starting small and getting bigger and more complex through the week, until the final negotiation is the most complex, ugly hairy negotiation. It will be multi-party with communications challenges and constraints. There’s a celebration at the end in the sense that “We never thought we could get so tangled up in all this and still make a deal.”

An interesting thing about this type of in-person executive development program is you get people from different industries and different levels in their organizations. So they all show up with their own organizational filters. Last time, we had a lawyer from Microsoft, people from the defense industry and others from local companies. The Microsoft person had already been negotiating big deals, but someone not trained in law would have a very different perspective. That’s the amazing part of this course from a participant’s perspective – you’re listening to how other industries have solved their negotiation problems. You quickly see people’s preferences and how they act in their own industries.

Q: How is feedback provided as participants move through the negotiation scenarios?

Kull: The participants are all experts in a lot of ways, so we try to create an expertise feedback loop. Input and feedback is provided at the end of the session. It’s broken up into segments. We reserve time for reflections and observations. What did you observe in others, what did you see in yourselves? It can be humbling. Also at the end of the day, participants fill in learning logs – they’ll have those as a takeaway from all the observations.

“This course is all about the ability to impact your business.” Click to tweet

Q: What are the key takeaways for your course participants?

Leclerc: It’s all about the ability to impact your business. Our course time is split in three ways: Theory, work groups and simulation. The experience I’ve had with adult learners is they do very well with simulation. When they start to see the progression of things, they’re able to identify and internalize the takeaways from that session. They are looking for what they can implement quickly when they return to work.

Kull: While they do pick up techniques that could be used right away, not all of the learning is immediately actionable. What I’ve heard people say is, “I’ve got to work with my team on this when I get back.” So the real value is they identify gaps in their own organization and go back and become leaders in transforming their organization.

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