Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Confluencia 2011- Day 1 " I think therefore I am "

The first luminary to give his address was Mr. Himanshu Rai and his topic of discussion was "Negotiation". Mr. Himanshu Rai is currently a HR and marketing professor at IIM Lucknow. It was a highly interactive session with participation from the whole class which was jam packed from the beginning.

Mr. Himanshu started his discussion by asking everyone the basic definition of negotiation and how is it different from coercion. He thus defined negotiation as “It is a process of communication whereby two or more parties come together to attempt to reach agreement on one or more issues”. Negotiation is inherent in human nature. It not only happens between two or more parties, but rather, an individual also makes negotiations with himself. For example, all MBA students who have work experience have made a negotiation with themselves about leaving their jobs and taking up MBA.

Negotiation being defined, Mr. Himanshu then asked another question, “What is the prerequisite for any negotiation to take place?”. For any negotiation to take place there has to be a conflict, i.e. there has to be differences in opinions. For an individual, it is like “To be or not to be”, or rather a conflict between desire and judgement . The difference between the former and the latter being, the former is a conflict with conscience while the latter is opinions about other things. Mr. Himanshu divided conflicts into four categories, namely intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup and intergroup. “Are conflicts good ?”- he asked next. Conflicts can be good or bad, or rather dysfunctional or functional. For example if we have conflict in our personalities it is dysfunctional or bad, and when we conflicts in processes it is functional because here a conflict may lead to a better solution.

Our speaker then asked a very tricky question, “What is the difference between perception and reality?”. To this he stated a quote by the great philosopher RenĂ© Descartes- “ I think therefore I am.” He went on to say that everything in the world is full of perceptions. Its “WE” humans who believe in a given perception and that is what we think is reality, i.e. what we believe in may not be the same for another individual. This is thus a conflict .The lesson to be learnt here is that we cannot resolve conflicts if we don’t accept them. Analogous to this, we may think ourselves as being very good and hardworking, but at the end of the day if you can’t convey the same to the person in front of you, you can’t get your work done. Another example is that of conflicts arising out of generation gap. Thus conflict is a matter of perception and the only way to resolve it is to acknowledge it.

After giving an insight into what is negotiation, Mr. Himanshu then went on to give the skills required by a manager to become a great negotiator. These include artfulness, diplomacy, detachedness, fair-mindedness and sagacity. An individual should have political foresightedness, ability to manage relationships and knowing when to leave the bargaining table. For example, while dealing with a regular subordinate and another subordinate whose is a nephew of a big CEO, one has to treat each kind differently because of the different weights attached to them. One has to be careful while choosing his/her words. Similarly one should not ignore the accomplishments of the opposite party. One major thing to be careful about is detachedness. One cannot afford to be angry while negotiating because it shows a sign of attachment which is not recommended. One has to be devoid of any ego and should have the ability to distinguish between the subject and the object, i.e. the topic and the person.

The latter half of the lecture was on the key steps of carrying out a negotiation. Those include goals, strategy and planning. Mr. Himanshu creatively explained goals by taking a leaf out from the book “ Alice In wonderland .“ As in the book when Alice lands up in Wonderland and comes to a crossroad she meets the Cheshire Cat. At first Alice doesn’t know where to go and the Cat tells her that then she choose any way. But then Alice says that she wants to reach “somewhere”. To this the Cheshire Cat replied that she will if she walks long enough. The moral being that without goals you will reach somewhere but is that the place where you wanted to be. It’s like even if you win a rat race you will still be a rat. But for a negotiation its importance to keep goals otherwise the other party would see that you are not serious.

Next he discussed strategy by asking everyone to divide into pairs of two. He then asked each pair to draw scenery while holding the same pen together. After the exercise he divided the class into various categories. In the first type both were trying to draw thus showing competitive behaviour. The second kind being the pair in which one person drew and then the other, thus showing a collaborative attitude. The third kind was the one in which one person drew and the other just looked on, which shows an attitude of avoidance. And finally the fourth in which one person drew while the other held on to the pen, thus showing the attitude of accommodation. Mr. Himashu then explained the same with the help of game theory.

Substantive Outcome Important
Relational Outcome Important

The last part was implementing the strategy. He said there are three major issues in implementing, namely the essentials, the desires and the give aways. For example, one can bargain for the essentials with the giveaways. Thus there can be other combinations. The important thing is to choose wisely according to the situation. The next thing is defining interests. For example, an individual wanted to sell his car for Rs. 50000 and not less. Now the buyer can bargain in two ways. Either he can say that he can’t pay or that he will pay some part of the amount then and the rest later. Now the former case shows position while the latter shows interest. It’s the latter that a person should try and portrait while negotiating. Moreover there are always alternatives. The issue is to try and find it.

Next is the art of communication. What the sender is speaking and how it is received by the listener can be entirely different. Thus it is essential to consider the opposite party, his/her culture and communicate in a manner which is understandable. There are people who take the meaning of the word literally while there are others who study your body and interpret what is being received.

Mr. Himanshu ended the address by showing a clip from the movie “Gandhi”. With the help of this clip he explained the need of having the three most important elements to negotiate, namely Ethos, Pathos and Logos, i.e. credibility, passion and logic.

Mr. Himanshu was given a huge round of applause from the participants for giving such a vibrant and resourceful address on the art of negotiation.

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