New from the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC), Ren the Robot is a one-and-a-half hour, two-party, multi-issue negotiation between a Tokyo-based robotics company, Grubotics, and a U.S.-based tech company, Delivered, over a potential acquisition deal. It is designed to be conducted using online video conferencing. The use of online video conference technology highlights the conveniences of such tools, but also the potential pitfalls and different comfort levels negotiators can have with this technology.
Delivered is an app-based service that matches independent food-delivery drivers with customers who want delivery from their favorite neighborhood restaurants. While originally only available in the US, Delivered now operates in major cities all over the world. Already a globally successful company before the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing stay-at-home orders caused an explosion in Delivered’s popularity. Many restaurants, however, were forced to close permanently during the stay-at-home period, while others who successfully pivoted to entirely take-out-based orders had difficulty keeping up with demand. As restaurants were permitted to reopen for in-person dining, a severe labor shortage left them desperate for servers and cooks and many establishments were unable to maximize business in the face of pent-up demand. Delivered is seeking to invest some of its newly increased development budget in innovative technologies in order to address some of these issues.
Grubotics is a Japanese robotics company, which makes food-preparation robots. “Ren”, the food-preparation robot, has an internal refrigerator, which holds fresh produce and other ingredients. It can combine these ingredients into custom salads, noodle bowls, and other dishes. Prior to the pandemic, Grubotics robots were primarily used in universities, hospitals, and grocery stores. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a massive increase in their use by restaurants and convenience stores, which were looking for a way to address the labor shortage and also for a method to dispense fresh food without human contact. A relatively young company with only 20 employees, Grubotics has had difficulty scaling up and meeting the surging demand for its food-preparation robots. It is therefore beginning acquisition negotiations with Delivered to seek an influx of capital to help meet demand and expand into new markets.
Major teaching lessons include:
- Navigating the dynamics of technology, and technological preferences. The use of online video conference technology in this negotiation highlights the conveniences of such tools, but also potential pitfalls and different comfort levels parties can have with online video negotiation.
- Negotiation process management and agenda setting. This simulation teaches participants to think strategically about how to set an agenda in a negotiation. Do you start with the most important issues to your side first? Or do you start with an issue you think likely to get an agreement on to build momentum? Since the parties prioritize issues in the negotiation differently, participants must not only think about how their side ranks the issues, but also how their counterpart might rank them.
- Openings in a negotiation, the pre-anchoring phase, and momentum-building. Asking questions in the beginning of a negotiation to gather information about the other party’s interests is useful for participants to better formulate an initial offer and set up the negotiation to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
- Defining BATNAs in the face of substantial uncertainty. This negotiation requires both sides to think critically about what their best fallback option is as well as what the other party’s alternative might be.
- Cross-cultural communication. This negotiation deals with conflicting cultural expectations and how expectations about culture can impact a negotiation.
- Managing relationship dynamics and the possibility of a future relationships in a negotiation. This simulation highlights the impact that expectations about ongoing relationship can have on positions taken during a negotiation.
Download a free Ren the Robot Teacher’s Package preview copy to learn more about this new simulation.
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TNRC negotiation exercises and teaching materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.
Negotiation exercises and role-play simulations introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing students to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation and conflict management.
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