Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Business Negotiations

Business Negotiations

How good are you at negotiating?

I enjoyed the BBC exercise because it was fairly non-punitive and there was no way to get 60% as one must just begin again and do it again until you get it right. Isn't that a little more like life long learning? Is it really about the grades for adult learners? To me this type of activity accords with adult learning principles in that even when you get it wrong you still learn some important points for getting it right hopefully next time. In some ways the rewards of such an activity exceed an outright score or grade.

Expanded (Excessive?) Aside and Preamble/Digression

First of all, it is wonderful to see all of these resources on negotiation gathered in one location. Do I have permission to duly pilfer these materials? When I completed my negotiation certificate from Notre Dame it was with the intended purpose to proceed to design a course based on my boss's expectations that it be a case-study based approach. That was four years ago and over that time I have cobbled together selected resources and made small incremental improvements to meet his demands as well as my own view of perceived needs in combination with those of the students at pre-intermediate levels.

For example, do you have any idea how hard it is to find short, two or three page case studies that address some of the essential topics at Harvard Business Review and do not scare off half of the class in the first week? It took weeks to find even as few as half a dozen I felt were useful for BE learners. What I have done is blended many materials together without any official course book. Through student feedback I made concentrated efforts to collect various short warm-up activities and negotiation role plays from online sources including some of those listed here. It is reassuring to see such a collection.

The body of each lesson of my negotiation class covers four essential areas:

1. Negotiation Role Play/Warm Up

Strengths: Students love these activities and it gets more spontaneous discussion and reflection generated than virtually any other course I teach.

Weaknesses: We can't count and trade chickens, sheep or goats indefinitely. We need to tackle the results and discuss the wrap-up actually using target vocabulary.

2. Post Activity Discussion/Review

Strengths: Students are much more likely to have realizable "take aways" following a warm up activity whose concept and learning points are easily made and enjoyable.

Weaknesses: If the warm activity is too complex its learning points will be lost making it difficult to discuss. Multi-party negotiation practices take more prep time and are more challenging.

3. Formal lecture style simplified slides of basic negotiation concepts supported by short two or three page case studies. I try to provide or elicit real world examples for every concept in class.

Strengths: Contains target vocabulary, expressions , humorous or provocative visuals and concept building which may assist in retention of previous points and gives time for reflection, and further questions.

Weaknesses: Lectures are often just bloody boring. But there is a good book on developing better lectures called, "The Art of Lecturing: A Practical Guide to Successful University Lectures and Business Presentations" by Parham Aarabi which I picked up a couple of years ago and which I do glaze over on occasion.

4. Case studies combined with country profile presentations as previously discussed form the basis for general comprehension questions and students group work presentations followed by short Q & A sessions.

Strengths: Short two page case studies are easily reviewed with comprehension questions on key concepts written by leading negotiation experts.

Weaknesses: Bare minimum of usable information and pretty thin meat on these bones and not exactly communication practice.

The Meat of the Original Question

The ESL resource centre has to be one of my preferred collections of activities not only because it contains one of my students' favourite warm-up games the "zoo animal exchange negotiated role play" but also because I like the manageable short length of these activities. Strengths include easily printed half-pages saving the trees a half page at a time. Any of these would be set as warm up activities and/or the useful phrases and expressions worksheet as well as a consistent reference for the students as conversation starters repeatedly for other various activities throughout the course. As mentioned before the weaknesses amount to warm-ups level of success being dependent upon how much wrap-up and follow-up discussion of cognitive learning points can be bridged from the game to self-assessment across lecture vocabulary, case studies and country profile presentations.

A Little Karmic Give Back

One useful resource I do not see listed here includes Dr. Mary P. Rowe's excellent notes and warm up activities from Sloan Business School. I would also give a list of my entire warm ups wrap sheet but I sent the collected works/stash off to be bound. As a result of my added numbers (the Chinese are swamping my lifeboat) I may even need to multiply my case/country schedule.

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