Among the signature curriculum of the Harvard Kennedy School, negotiation training has always stood out as among the most popular due to its practicality and necessity across all sectors and policy domains. Founded by one of the luminaries of negotiation science, Howard Raiffa, HKS has faculty have always been at the forefront of negotiation research and training. With the two introductory negotiation courses outside the MPP core, MLD-223 Negotiating Across Differences with Senior Lecturer in Public Policy Kessely Hong, and MLD-224 Behavioral Science of Negotiations with Associate Professor Julia Minson, students can learn the fundamental, time-tested frameworks of negotiation analysis. Both courses introduce the core concepts of distributive bargaining, value creation, stakeholder analysis, trust-building, barriers to agreement, and strategic approaches to negotiation.
Both courses also feature numerous negotiation simulations, in which students have the opportunity to learn how to prepare effectively, to practice communication and persuasion, and to experiment with a variety of negotiation tactics and strategies. Analysis of their own approach to, and individual outcomes in, such simulations allows students to experience first-hand the powerful strategic and psychological dynamics present in negotiation situations. Both Minson and Hong, along with their skilled course coaches, facilitate students’ reflective learning from each of the simulations. Ultimately, this reflective practice through frameworks taught in the courses enables students to develop their own capacity to improve as effective negotiators.
While there is much overlap in what each course covers, there are distinctive differences between them as well. MLD-223 (Hong) offers more complex, multiple-stakeholder cases and simulations, some of which include salient cultural or power differences and multi-party dynamics. Students are challenged to navigate differences in expectations, attitudes toward risk, culture, power, status, and partisan perceptions. MLD-224 (Minson) prioritizes the negotiation topics that have the most guidance derived from experimental research. As Minson quips, “I am fundamentally skeptical of expert advice until I see the data,” so she focuses her course more on the psychology and decision-making involved in one-on-one negotiations. In Minson’s course students do almost no written-case discussion, but instead class time is spend talking about how research findings might translate into negotiation strategies. Research-derived topics covered include ethics and deception, the role of gender and personality, operating under time pressure, mixed motives and game theory, judgment biases in negotiations, psychological barriers to conflict resolution, and the impact mediation can have. In Hong’s course, students read and analyze a variety of very rich real-world cases, in which interpretations of the protagonists’ actions provide illuminating insights into similar spectrum of dynamics (personal, psychological, political, cultural, etc.) at play in negotiations over public policy.
Both MLD-223 and MLD-224 serve as pre-requisites for MLD-280M Advanced Workshop in Multiparty Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, the January-term course, taught by Brian Mandell, Mohamed Kamal Senior Lecturer in Negotiation and Public Policy. Students wanting to additional venues to study, research, and design new ways of negotiation practice will be interested in exploring the Kennedy School Negotiation Program. Established and directed by Brian Mandell, KSNP brings together affiliated faculty from the Harvard Kennedy School whose work on negotiation, conflict management, alternative dispute resolution, and intersectional leadership expands the way our community and the broader field studies leadership and negotiation. KSNP offers a variety of student resources and programming.