Negotiation as an art and negotiation as a science: Two fundamentally different statements but one cohesive element binds them together – process. While the blueprint for achieving your negotiation goals may differ depending on the type of negotiation, the road to negotiation success looks much the same across most negotiation scenarios. In discussing the art and science of negotiation, great negotiator Tommy Koh described five “fundamentals” that Program on Negotiation faculty member James K. Sebenius says, “have value in almost any negotiation.”
These “often-neglected” fundamentals include:
- Master your brief.
- Build a talented, happy, and cohesive team.
- Build a common fact base.
- Think outside your own box.
- Think win-win.
While these five fundamentals have applicability to almost any negotiation you will encounter, Ambassador Koh also offered substantive advice for those negotiators facing far more complex negotiations, such as those involving various international interests.
To recap, Tommy Koh became the youngest ambassador ever appointed to the United Nations and later served as Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States. During his remarkable career, Koh played central roles in some of the most complex international negotiations ever held. For example, he:
- Led negotiations over China’s recognition of Singapore while preserving Singapore’s important relationship with Taiwan;
- Served as President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in which thousands of delegate-negotiators hammered out a “constitution for the oceans” that was ultimately ratified and/or signed by 197 countries;
- Chaired negotiations at the Rio “Earth Summit”—likely the high point of international environmental cooperation, with the final session attended by no fewer than 130 heads of state/government—that produced global agreements on forests, biodiversity, desertification, and climate change, etc.; and
- Acted as Chief Negotiator for Singapore in talks leading to the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
To read more about Tommy Koh’s advice for leading and conducting large, multinational negotiations, you can read James K. Sebenius’ analysis here on the Harvard Business Review blog.
From studying a great negotiator like Tommy Koh, we can learn (or re-learn) the fundamentals as well as inventive approaches to truly challenging negotiations.
Who do you think of as a great negotiator? Share your favorites in the comments.