Specific versus Abstract Negotiation Skills Training

By — on / Negotiation Skills

Researchers have argued that negotiators learn more from cases and real-world experiences when they can take away an abstract version of the lesson. Such abstractions come from analogies developed across two or more different negotiation contexts, say Leigh Thompson and Dedre Gentner of Northwestern University and Jeffrey Loewenstein of the University of Texas, who propose that such analogical reasoning be incorporated into negotiation training.

But researchers Simone Moran and Yoella Bereby-Meyer of Ben Gurion University and Max H. Bazerman of Harvard Business School argue that teaching people more general negotiation principles – such as “value can be created” – enables a more successful transfer to a broader range of new negotiation tasks than focused analogies.

They found that study participants who received analogical training for one negotiation strategy (for instance, logrolling issues to create value) did not perform well when confronted with a different face-to-face negotiation. Moran and colleagues compared specific analogical training, in which learners compared two cases illustrating the same strategy (such as logrolling) with diverse analogical training, in which learners compared two cases illustrating different value-creating strategies (e.g., one illustrated logrolling and the other compatibility).

The results: diverse analogical training fostered greater learning of value-creating negotiation principles than did on specific analogical training, and it also transferred better to distinctive tasks and improved performance on value-creating strategies, including some that participants had never previously encountered. This improved performance was accompanied by a deeper understanding of the potential to create value.

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