Teach Your Students to Negotiate the Technology Industry

By — on / Teaching Negotiation

negotiation techniques

Technology is a pervasive feature of modern life, providing countless benefits ranging from new cancer treatments to smart phones. Especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has been embedded in many parts of our everyday lives. Technology can also be a source of disruption and is at the root of many disputes. Parties frequently disagree on the likely costs and benefits associated with the adoption of new technologies. They feud over such things as patent infringement and intellectual property rights. The fast pace of technology development and the complexity of the tech sector make efforts to negotiate agreements even more challenging.

Negotiations in the technology industry can involve deals between investors and inventors who must balance aggressive demands with the need to maintain good working relationships.  To navigate these complex waters, negotiators need to know how to create value and achieve mutual gains in dynamic, fast paced interactions. The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) offers realistic role-play simulations that can help parties practice and prepare for typical technology-related negotiations.

Multisearch Software – Featured Technology Simulation

This one-hour, two-party technology negotiation simulation involves a software developer and a software manufacturer who are considering a possible contract for a new search engine product. Programmer Lance Goodman has produced a new internet meta-search engine called MultiSearch. He would like to turn over the support and marketing of MultiSearch to a professional firm so that he can devote more time to other projects. Sue Edwards, Vice President of Business Development for respected software firm Jack Carnie Inc., is looking for a new internet product to add to her firm’s portfolio. The two are meeting to discuss the possibility of Jack Carnie Inc. acquiring and marketing MultiSearch. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • Ways of reaching agreement when the ZOPA is very large
  • Methods for dealing with differing interests regarding non-monetary considerations (such as the timing of the deal)
  • The potential value of contingent agreements

Download a free preview copy of the Multisearch Teacher’s Package to learn more.

Telecom Services – Featured Technology Simulation

This two hour, two-party, two-issue, scoreable negotiation focuses on the terms of a telecommunications services contract. Data Voice markets telecommunications (“telecom”) services to residential and business customers. A small firm called Consulting Integration needs to renew and adjust its telecom services contract with Data Voice. This will be Consulting Integration’s second three-year telecom services contract with Data Voice. Technical specialist Robin Rigley represents Consulting Integration while regional sales manager, Kelsey Kidd, represents Data Voice.

Robin and Kelsey have to resolve the question of how many integrated workstations are really needed. With a large part of its business devoted to onsite client consulting, Consulting Integration does not currently require the integrated workstation packages that Data Voice offers. However, when Consulting Integration’s website improvements begin to expand its offsite consulting services, the need for integrated workstation packages may grow.

Before Data Voice expanded its telecom platforms, it lost many clients who preferred to maintain telecom service agreements with a single carrier. In response, Data Voice began to offer data and video telecom services, bundling them into package agreements like those of their competitors. Because of the additional networking technology and hardware required to offer these services, Data Voice has had to expand its technical, operational, and customer service divisions threefold. Robin and Kelsey are about to meet to discuss their telecom services contract adjustment and renewal. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • How to create value through trades across different priorities
  • Pareto optimization/ maximization
  • Tension between creating and claiming value
  • The impact of aspirations and reservation values on negotiated outcomes
  • The importance of responding and adjusting to new information as it becomes available during a negotiation

Download a free preview copy of the Telecom Services Teacher’s Package to learn more.

Gadgets, Inc. – Featured Technology Simulation

This one hour, six-party, four-issue scorable negotiation involves a company’s top management, it union representatives, concerned environmental groups, and state and federal environmental regulators.  The question is whether fines will be imposed if the company uses new technology to respond to earlier charges of polluting. Over the past eight months, Gadgets, Inc. (‘Gadgets’), a metal plating firm, has failed to comply with state regulations regarding the concentrations of copper and lead in their waste water. Required monthly reports submitted by the company to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have been accurate, but actual violations were overlooked by DEP for five months to give the company ample time to make adjustments. When DEP noticed Gadgets’ violations three months ago, it demanded immediate compliance and five months’ worth of fines. Citing economic hardship, past good faith efforts and its role in the local economy, Gadgets requested a delay while it explored options to rectify the continuing pollution problem. DEP initially agreed, but has now come under fire from environmental activists.

In the midst of this situation, the Innovative Technology Program (‘ITS’) of DEP has announced a new system for pollution prevention. ITS has been looking for a middle-sized firm to test its new system, so DEP has ordered Gadgets to install it (for further testing). The environmental activists now believe that Gadgets is getting off the hook, and that the new system has not been adequately tested. Following the rules of DEP’s Innovative Technology Program, the Environmental Secretary’s Special Assistant has called a meeting of interested parties to discuss four issues:

  1. The choice of a pollution prevention technology
  2. A possible DEP subsidy for the installation of the new pollution prevention system at Gadgets
  3. The payment of fines by Gadgets
  4. The frequency of and responsibility for monitoring of compliance by Gadgets.

In addition to the Environmental Secretary’s Special Assistant, the meeting includes representatives from Gadgets management, the Gadgets workers’ union, two environmental activist groups, and the EPA. Major lessons embedded in this simulation include:

  • How to understand the dynamics of regulatory, particular compliance, negotiation.
  • How to handle multi-party negotiation dynamics, including coalition building, as well as meeting design, and caucusing
  • How to evaluate a wide range of possible agreements using both technical and non-technical criteria
  • How to handle scientific and technical uncertainty by using contingent agreements

Download a free preview copy of the Gadgets Teacher’s Package to learn more.

Technology Equipment Partners – Featured Technology Simulation

This three hour, two-team, six-party, four-issue negotiation involves representatives of two corporations considering a high-tech joint venture. Advanced Sensor Technologies (AST) is a leading manufacturer of chemical sensors. Technology Equipment Partners (TEP) manufactures the type of equipment AST uses to produce its sensors. AST and TEP are meeting to set the terms of a potential joint development and purchasing agreement. Three senior executives from each company are involved. They have to reach agreement on four issues: tool price, order schedule, payment schedule, and ownership of intellectual property. The game is designed to show that the mutual gains approach applies particularly well in technology negotiations. Major lessons include:

  • The importance of the basic tenets of the mutual gains approach to negotiation: prepare, create value, distribute value, and follow through.
  • The way in which questions about technology uniquely affect negotiations. For example, technical uncertainty and the impact of different levels of technology awareness among the parties.
  • How the technology context affects the extent to which negotiators can and should define the rules of the game, apply objective standards, and focus together on how best to ensure compliance.

Download a free preview copy of the Tcchnology Equipment Partners Teacher’s Package to learn more.

Learn more about these and other technology negotiation simulations in the TNRC collection.


Take your training to the next level with the TNRC

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including

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.

Which negotiation exercises have helped you? Let us know in the comments.

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The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
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