Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The best negotiating book I've ever read

Am I a good negotiator? I've negotiated several dozen contracts, from short-term consulting agreements to broad, highly-complex strategic alliances. I've done deals in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia. I feature negotiation on my resume.

But hold on a second. According to Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman of Harvard Business School, authors of the book "Negotiation Genius," experience does not equal expertise in negotiation. Through many quirks of human nature, we are capable of making the same mistakes over and over again, even in terribly important efforts. (Click here if you'd like to hear about one of my poorest negotiating efforts.)

If practice doesn't make perfect, what is someone who wants to be a better negotiator to do? Well, read "Negotiation Genius," for one, and apply its lessons. Despite that awkward title, it's a fantastic book on a subject that too rarely gets serious treatment in the business press.

The authors use countless examples and are not afraid to get complicated. As enlightening as it was to read through once, I think "Negotiation Genius" will be a valuable reference that I'll use again and again, whether contemplating, preparing for, or engaging in a business negotiation.

The book covers:

  • Getting more than your fair share of the negotiating pie
  • Increasing the size of the pie
  • How to respond when you'd like to immediately agree to an offer
  • How to bargain when you have little power
  • How to deal with lying or deception
  • etc.
In other words, "Negotiation Genius" has everything a quick-read, how-to negotiation book has plus an exhaustive explanation of the underlying psychological factors (referencing specific research, especially the behavioral economics work of Daniel Kahneman and others). Finally, there are so many relevant examples, including experiences of the authors, that every assertion in the book feels grounded and reasonable.

And there is humor, too, including how the most difficult negotiating counterpart can be one's own spouse (my Vice President of Common Sense would attest to that).

Here's an excerpt on how our emotions can harm us in negotiations:
If you are angry with a negotiating counterpart, you may want to do or say something that you know will harm you in the long run.... Still, in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to resist the urge to lash out or to retaliate. Similarly, if the other side makes you an attractive offer, you may be so excited that you are tempted to accept right away, though you know it would be smart to try to negotiate a better deal.... Note that you would not advise a friend to act rashly in either of these two situations--yet, at the same time, you might find it hard to do otherwise. (P. 127)

Wise words. "Negotiation Genius" is full of them. Read it if you want to be a better negotiator. There's no other book on the subject I can recommend more highly.

Further Information:

Here is a Shop Talk Podcast on one of the concepts Malhotra and Bazerman discuss, the BATNA, or Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement.

, , ,


Scott said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention - greetings from the UK!