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How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World

by Michael Wheeler

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9042-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Wheeler (Harvard Business School/Negotiation, 2003, etc.) distills his teaching experience and research in expanding methods of negotiation.

The author writes that many negotiation tactics fail to “capture the complexity of real-world negotiation.” Old-fashioned hardball methods were undermined by the emphasis on first identifying and then building on mutual interests of those involved. Wheeler offers a dynamic approach that assumes interests will be identified and developed during negotiations, and he stresses that effective negotiations are based on the ability to extemporize and to master a flexible approach, permitting uncertainty to be managed effectively. “We can’t script the process,” he writes. “Whoever sits across the table from us may be just as smart, determined, and fallible as we are.” Wheeler begins with a three-part cycle based on the capacity to learn, adapt and influence, and he brings these abstractions to life by discussing classroom experiences designed to address the effectiveness of different ways of dealing with problems, using role-playing and other kinds of simulations and enactments. Wheeler also provides case studies from real estate transactions and other business ventures. He discusses how Don Schnabel acquired and assembled separate parcel lots into the most expensive lot in New York history, which became Citibank's headquarters; and how Jerry Weintraub inveigled the movie stars who participated in the Oceans Eleven remake with him into a sequel by “stretching the truth.” Wheeler advocates planning, envisioning pathways to the endgame, and using both carrots and sticks, among other approaches. He also provides many examples and helpful stratagems for dealing with slights and belittlement, and he examines nonverbal and emotional behaviors. Throughout, he advocates looking below the surface for closure opportunities. For him, the OODA loop—observe, orient, decide, act—supplements learning, adapting and influencing.

A fresh approach offering new ways to improve negotiating skills.