Putting Negotiation Training to Work: The Limits of Lectures

The three-stage process you need to go through in order to change behaviors through negotiation training

By on / Negotiation Training

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Negotiation training lectures, like publications, are an excellent means of transmitting knowledge from an expert to a less knowledgeable audience.

I have attended many amazing lectures on a multitude of topics and have learned fascinating information about the ecosystem, politics in different nations, animal species, and so on. I even have enjoyed hearing negotiation experts talk about the keys to their success. However, I am not at all confident that any particular lecture has improved my negotiation skills.


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


In his article, “Full Engagement: Learning the Most from Negotiation Simulations,” Lawrence Susskind discussed the value of learning negotiation skills by participating in simulations. To explain why simulations are so effective, Susskind overviewed psychologist Kurt Lewin’s model of change.

Lewin noted that people often fail to incorporate good ideas into their own behavior.

He argued that, for behavior to change permanently, individuals must go through a three-stage process:

  1. unfreeze past processes
  2. understand and value the content necessary for change
  3. and refreeze new processes.

Through these stages, new ideas about negotiation become part of managers’ intuition.

Lewin’s model of change tells us why lectures so often fail to transmit lasting knowledge. Consider the fact that most of us are fairly comfortable without negotiation skills. According to Lewin, only when we feel uncomfortable with some aspect of our current behavior will we unfreeze our past behavior. Without this unfreezing, change will not occur – even when we hear ideas that make sense.

When I attend a lecture on ecosystems, I am seeking knowledge rather than a change in my behavior. Unfreezing is critical in environments where the goal is not simply knowledge acquisition but changes in deeply ingrained behaviors.


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


Adapted from “Putting Negotiation Training to Work” by Max Bazerman in the September 2005 issue of the Negotiation newsletter.

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