Do you teach students how to structure a negotiation process while helping them to develop the emotional acuity necessary for building relationships with counterparts? Professor Linda Kaboolian refers to this as “teaching head and heart negotiation”; an approach that was central to the 10 years she spent teaching simulation-based negotiation at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Kaboolian recently shared with us her experience teaching negotiation to students in the Master of Public Health program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She elaborated on how technology, specifically the iDecisionGames platform, enhanced her course.
TNRC and iDecisionGames
As technology continues to evolve the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) is committed to providing negotiation educators with best-in-class material in a format that works for them and their students.
The TNRC recently evaluated various platforms and software built for negotiation teachers and trainers who use role-plays in their classes. iDecisionGames is a web-based platform using technology that simplifies the administrative side of the role-play experience, frees up more time for teaching, and provides a launch pad for educators who want to innovate further in their traditional or online classroom.
Find out more about the iDG platform in this brief video and in this article.
Building a support structure
After accepting an invitation to teach at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Kaboolian discovered a limited set of support options to help her with role-play logistics. Undeterred, Kaboolian established her negotiation game-based course, which quickly filled to capacity. Despite higher demand, Kaboolian capped her course at 70 students due to the complexities involved in the course. In addition to teaching the class she also managed a teaching team that was tasked with creating copies, distributing roles, tracking student participation, gathering data, and assisting with the debrief.
Not long after she concluded her first negotiation course at the School of Public Health, Kaboolian learned that the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center simulations that she used were available on the new iDecisionGames platform. She saw an opportunity to simplify the administration of her simulations and instantly gather data to create outcome forms and charts for her debriefs.
Kaboolian contacted Niraj Kumar, founder of iDG, and set the wheels in motion to deliver her popular course via the new platform the following semester.
Empowering low power negotiators
According to Kaboolian, the participants in the Master of Public Health program were largely professionals who had spent most of their careers in “closely mentored environments where technical competence was prized over the social sciences.” They specialized in a range of highly technical fields including epidemiology, neurosurgery, and pediatric cardiac surgery.
Kaboolian hoped the iDG platform could help her visualize data while freeing up more of her time to teach the deeper concepts of negotiation. For example, while she wanted to use data to emphasize the Pareto Efficiency Frontier, she also wanted her students to engage in deep reflective work. She wanted to empower her students to create and question their assumptions and perceptions, challenge whatever crisis they faced, and be able to reframe the dynamics of a situation for themselves and their counterparts.
Kaboolian also realized that once her students graduated they would be often negotiating from a position of low power. Whether they would be attempting to get food aid across a border to feed war-torn communities, or working within a budget-challenged organization looking to maximize health impact, she needed to teach her students to “be the solution to the powerful player’s problem.” Given this challenging dynamic and the lack of a broad based liberal arts education in their backgrounds, Kaboolian knew she had to be laser focused on developing “head and heart” negotiators.
The following semester
Kaboolian received assurances from Kumar that the iDG team could streamline the detailed logistics associated with running multiple role-plays across a course. When it came time to negotiate the expense of using additional technology with the School of Public Health administrators, Kaboolian offered to reduce her teaching team, thereby reducing cost, in return for using the platform. Since there were inherent labor savings by using the iDG platform, this was a win-win for Kaboolian, her teaching team, and the school administration.
Class expansion and major improvements
With the iDG platform’s ability to simplify negotiation game logistics, Kaboolian realized she had a unique opportunity to scale up her class. She increased her capacity from 70 students to 120 students—a 40% increase! While a scale-up of this magnitude would typically increase the pressure on role-play management, the iDG platform easily accommodated the increased enrollment.
In addition, Kaboolian likes to employ last minute information, spoilers, new developments, etc., in her negotiation games. Distributing this information to the right people at the right time, concurrently, and at scale, was difficult prior to using the iDG platform. Kaboolian worked with Kumar and the iDG development team to coordinate these carefully orchestrated events so they occurred on command.
Kaboolian was impressed with the ease at which the platform could handle planned and unplanned changes. This flexibility allowed her to alter her teaching plan during the semester, while her students had no idea that she was continually evolving their curriculum.
The iDecisionGames platform provided a much-improved logistical management system for Kaboolian’s simulations and positively altered how she and her team delivered their active learning experiences at the School of Public Health.
Kaboolian asserts that it is up to the instructors and their assistants to create a situation where students can “focus on themselves as deliberators, leaders, negotiators. So they can reflect on their pathway, think about how they’re acting, and get comments from peers and instructors.”
According to Kaboolian, this educational journey is maximized when students and teachers “have the smoothest experience possible.” Students “trust you to be prepared and focused, not undermined by sloppy negotiation game logistics.”
Kaboolian is committed to using the iDG platform for the foreseeable future. As such, she and Kumar are already working on new developments that will continue to enhance her simulations with additional data parameters and reporting features.
Kaboolian has surpassed the point where she is substituting an analog system of paper handouts and hand-written notes with digital equivalents. She is working with the iDG developers to augment and modify her teaching tools by building new elements into her course that didn’t exist before. For Kaboolian, this is the exciting future of the iDG platform; it solves old frustrating issues and presents exciting possibilities for educators who want to leverage the latest digital tools in their negotiation classroom.
Sharing is caring
Kaboolian heard about the iDG platform after reading about PON Executive Committee member Jared Curhan’s experience. She hopes that by sharing her story with Teaching Negotiation Resource Center readers like you, she can provide some insight, advice and confidence that will help you begin your journey towards improved negotiation teaching and training.
The iDecisionGames Platform at a Glance
Teachers and trainers can leverage the power of technology to enhance their negotiation classes by using TNRC role-plays on the new iDecisionGames (iDG) platform.
Teaching TNRC role-plays on the iDG platform enables educators to:
- Easily pair participants and distribute materials
- Monitor entire class progress in real time
- Make substitutions” at the last minute
- Generate analytics and visuals about class performance
- Capture and share qualitative details and quantitative data
- Generate tables automatically to show participants results immediately after an exercise
- Access the iDG platform on their computer, tablet or phone
- Get instantaneous feedback from educators
- Negotiate in person, online, or by video conferencing