Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of 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.

fixed pie

What is a Fixed Pie in Negotiations?

In many negotiations, the mythical “fixed pie” mindset leads us to interpret the competitive situations as purely win-lose.

One of the most destructive assumptions we bring to negotiations is the assumption that there is a fixed pie of resources. For those negotiators who recognize opportunities to grow the pie of value through mutually beneficial tradeoffs among issues, the complexity of such integrative negotiations is an asset. Tradeoffs allow you and your negotiating partner to achieve more than you would if you merely compromised on each issue.

Once negotiators have broken the assumption of a mythical fixed pie, the search for value can begin. To create value, you need to learn about the other party’s interests and preferences.

Begin with a thorough preparation for negotiation, including reaching an accurate understanding of the zone of possible agreement, or ZOPA, in business.

Your ZOPA analysis should begin with a consideration of your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA. BATNA analysis helps you determine each party’s reservation point, or walk away point, in your negotiation. If there is a set of resolutions that both parties would prefer over the impasse, then a ZOPA exists, and it would be optimal for you to reach a settlement.

When we move beyond the fixed pie mindset, we avoid the need to make costly compromises by capitalizing on what each party values most. Great negotiators understand that the more issues they add to the negotiation, the more money they are likely to make. In the vast majority of negotiations, it’s simply not true that “what’s good for them is bad for me,” and vice versa. When we see the flaws in this win-lose attitude, we open up new possibilities to create and claim value.

Discover how to boost your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.


The following items are tagged fixed pie:

The Importance of a Relationship in Negotiation

Posted by Jeswald Salacuse & filed under Negotiation Training.

At the negotiation table, what’s the best way to uncover your negotiation counterpart’s hidden interests? Build a relationship in negotiation by asking questions, then listening carefully. Even if you have decided to make the first offer and are ready with a number of alternatives, you should always open by asking and listening to assess your … Read More 

Reservation Point in Negotiation: Reach Negotiated Agreements by Asking the Right Questions

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Negotiation Skills.

A reservation point negotiation is a bargaining scenario in which each side is trying to reconcile the other’s highest offer and the other’s lowest price. This negotiation example can apply to many other bargaining situations and demonstrates the value of open communication with your counterpart at the negotiation table. … Read More 

In Negotiation, it’s All in the Timing

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Dealmaking.

Back on July 11, 2000, U.S. president Bill Clinton welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to a summit at Camp David aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all. The summit covered various contentious issues, including territory, settlements, security, and the status of refugees. After about two weeks, … Read More 

Why Great Negotiators Earn More Money

Posted by Katie Shonk & filed under Salary Negotiations.

What’s the best way to claim more money in a negotiation? Many professional negotiators would recommend hard-bargaining tactics, such as asking the other party to disclose their bottom line, standing firm on price, and threatening to walk away. But truly great negotiators recognize that using haggling strategies alone may leave significant money on the table. … Read More 

How to Find the ZOPA in Business Negotiations

Posted by Katie Shonk & filed under Business Negotiations.

In business negotiation, two polar-opposite errors are common: reaching agreement when it wouldn’t be wise to do so, and walking away from a mutually beneficial outcome. How can you avoid these pitfalls? Through careful preparation that includes an analysis of the zone of possible agreement, or ZOPA in business negotiations. … Read More 

Ask Better Negotiation Questions

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Consider negotiation questions you might overhear in a typical business negotiation: ■ “ You want how much for that order?” ■ “Can you see what an excellent offer this is?” ■ “Are you ready to take this deal, yes or no?” It’s not difficult to see the limitations of these negotiation questions. The first one is likely to promote … Read More 

Ask A Negotiation Expert: Creating More Value—For All

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Leadership Skills.

In these difficult times, many of us are thinking about how to help make the world better, including in our negotiations. The good news is that we can do so without huge sacrifices, writes Max H. Bazerman, the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, in his new book, Better, Not … Read More 

Coming Up with Win-Win Solutions at the Bargaining Table

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Business Negotiations.

Even those who effectively engage in an integrative negotiations or mutual-gains approach to negotiation, a bargaining scenario in which parties work together to meet interests and maximize value creation during the negotiation process, can be stymied by the task of dividing up a seemingly fixed pie of resources, such as budgets, revenue, and time. … Read More 

Advanced Negotiation Techniques: Get the Most out of Negotiation Training

Posted by Katie Shonk & filed under Negotiation Training.

So, you’re thinking about taking a negotiation course but are not sure if it will be worthwhile. Or maybe you attended one recently (or not so recently) and are wondering whether you are effectively applying what you’ve learned to the negotiations in your business and personal life. Unfortunately, even after the best negotiation training courses, many … Read More 

Teaching Real Estate Negotiation: How to Identify and Create Value

Posted by Lara SanPietro & filed under Teaching Negotiation.

How do you teach your students to identify and create value in real estate negotiations?  Real estate negotiation can be difficult for both the buyer and the seller. Teaching real estate negotiation can involve value creation, distributive bargaining, as well as issue linkages. It is important for both buyers, sellers, and agents to identify ways to … Read More 

Beware Your Counterpart’s Biases

Posted by Max Bazerman & filed under Conflict Resolution.

In the past we have encouraged you to ‘debias’ your own behavior by identifying the assumptions that may be clouding your judgment. We have introduced you to a number of judgment biases – common, systematic errors in thinking that are likely to affect your decisions and harm your outcomes in negotiation. Learn how to identify … Read More 

PON Faculty Members Jeswald Salacuse, Deborah Kolb, and William Ury Honored on Time’s List of the Five Best Negotiation Books of 2015

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Program on Negotiation faculty members Jeswald Salacuse, Deborah Kolb, and William Ury were named by Time magazine as the authors of three of the five best negotiation books of 2015. Jeswald Salacuse’s latest work, The Global Negotiator: Making, Managing and Mending Deals Around the World in the Twenty-First Century, describes the negotiation skills people need to succeed … Read More 

Negotiation Research You Can Use: Two new studies look at how our emotions affected negotiated outcomes

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Business Negotiations.

Feeling ambivalent in negotiation? No worries  Business negotiators often find themselves feeling positive and negative emotions simultaneously, such as concern that an offer won’t be received well and excitement over the offer’s potential. We often try to squelch our emotions for fear of appearing unstable or vulnerable. Indeed, past research has suggested that expressions of emotional ambivalence—the signs … Read More 

The Program on Negotiation Mourns the Loss of Co-Founder Roger Fisher

Posted by Susan Hackley & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Roger Fisher, co-founder of the Program on Negotiation and the Harvard Negotiation Project, died on August 25 at age 90. A true pioneer and leader, he helped launch a new way of thinking about negotiation, and he worked tirelessly to help people deal productively with conflict. “Through his writing and teaching, Roger Fisher’s seminal contributions literally … Read More 

When Does Personality Matter?

Posted by PON Staff & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

Adapted from “When Tough Talk Is Beside the Point,” by Hal Movius (instructor, The Program on Technology Negotiation, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School), first published in the Negotiation newsletter. Most of us intuitively believe that personality traits such as toughness matter a great deal in negotiation. Yet studies by Bruce Barry and Raymond Friedman of … Read More