15.665 | Spring 2014 | Graduate

Power and Negotiation


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


Permission of instructor; undergraduates may register for this subject provided they are ready to participate with the intensity expected for a grade H-level subject.

Course Overview

One of the most important skills you can learn at Sloan is how to effectively negotiate. Negotiations occur both in our professional and personal lives, from complex contracts to daily interactions. The flattening of organizations means we are all increasingly finding ourselves negotiating with peers, managers, subordinates, collaborators, clients, and partners. Although we negotiate all the time, most of us have not systematically learned and practiced effective negotiation strategies.

Negotiating is a skill that can be learned and improved. But, like playing tennis or chess, it requires know-how and practice. Learning to become an effective negotiator is not predominantly a matter of listening to lectures, but of actively participating in negotiation simulations that give you a chance to experience and experiment with different negotiation strategies and tools. This course provides multiple opportunities to practice your negotiating skills, to correct many mistakes that naïve negotiators tend to commit, reflect upon your experiences, and increase your effectiveness. The essence of this course can be distilled to: Practice, Reflect, Analyze, and Practice again.

Goals and Learning Objectives

After taking this course you will be able to:

  • Garner your fair share of what is negotiated
  • Recognize opportunities to create value that others might overlook
  • Strategically analyze negotiation situations and avoid common mistakes
  • Build lasting working relationships with negotiation counterparts
  • Handle difficult conversations in business and life
  • Reflect and learn from your experiences

Course Materials


  1. Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Penguin Books, 1991. ISBN: 9780140065343.
  2. Fisher, Roger, and Daniel Shapiro. Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate. Penguin Books, 2006. ISBN: 9780143037781.


Weekly Readings

Please read the articles or chapters assigned to each week ahead of class.

The list and sequence of weekly readings may change during the course of the semester depending on the way the course unfolds. In case of additional readings, these will be distributed to you in class at least one week in advance.

Weekly Simulations

In this course learning mostly occurs not by reading and talking but by doing and experiencing. Because of the importance of practice to negotiations, class sessions will involve at least one negotiation simulation.

For some simulations you will be asked to prepare your role in advance of class. It is extremely important for you to prepare carefully. Many of the simulations require close reading of background information and confidential instructions for each role. To avoid wasting your and your bargaining counterparts’ time, please come fully prepared to class.

To make the simulations meaningful learning experiences Do Not share or discuss your confidential instructions with the counter party.

Reflective Memos

Reflecting critically on one’s own choices and actions is crucial for strengthening one’s negotiation skills. You are required to write 5 one–page single spaced memos over the semester. There will be:

  • 3 Simulation Memos: Select a particular negotiation simulation performed in class in which you participated.
  • 1 Real Life Memo: Analyze a “real life” negotiation that you experience outside the classroom.
  • Grand Finale Memo: Reflect back on what you’ve learned in the course of the semester, how your negotiation style has changed, and what you still want to work on going forward.

Group Paper and Proposed Presentation

After forming a team with colleagues, you will collectively research and write a 7–10 page paper investigating a real-world conflict situation of your own choosing. Together with the paper, each team will create a simulation or exercise that illustrates the key lesson learned from your paper. The groups with the most promising presentation proposals will have an opportunity to takeover part of Class 12 and run the proposed exercise.

Class Participation

Active participation is a key ingredient to learning in this class. Even if you do not typically speak in class, I urge you to use this class as a safe space to experiment with sharing your thoughts. We will be grading your class participation. We particularly encourage you to make comments that have one or more of the following attributes:

  • Offer an original and relevant perspective on the issue.
  • Move the analysis forward by building on previous contributions.
  • Apply concepts to concrete situations.

(Note: Once you have spoken in a given class session please pause before raising your hand again so that other students have a chance to participate. If after your pause no new hands are raised, feel free to raise yours.)


Students taking this course are expected to regularly attend every class, to arrive (and leave) on time, and to be well prepared for all simulations and in-class exercises. Your own learning and that of your classmates depends on your attendance and timely arrival. Because simulations partners are sometimes assigned in advance, absences can have a significant negative impact on your assigned negotiation partner. Likewise, since we often conduct simulations at the beginning of class, a late arrival causes significant disruption to the class. Therefore, the attendance policy in 15.665 is strict: no absences are allowed. If you believe you have a truly exceptional circumstance that requires your absence, you must notify your TA at least 48 hours prior to class. If you have an exceptional circumstance and provide 48 hours advanced notice to your TA you will not be penalized for the first absence. However, any further absences, will have a negative impact on your participation and attendance grade, and such negative impact will be greater if you not provide 48 hours advance notification to your TA.

Freebie Challenge

In the spirit of experimentation and fun, I challenge those of you who want to push your negotiation skills to try to negotiate free food, drinks or other “freebies” for the entire class. Approach restaurant owners or other vendors, and negotiate on behalf of the class. (In the past some students have convinced local restaurants to provide free food as a marketing strategy). Any food or other freebies will be shared in the last session. While this exercise is purely voluntary, booty that comes with a good negotiation story will enhance your class “participation” grade.

Grading Breakdown

5 Reflective memos (8% each) 40% of final grade
Group paper and presentation proposal 30% of final grade
Class attendance and participation 30% of final grade


Privacy: A sense of openness and trust among participants will increase our ability to share with and learn from one another. We want the class to be a safe place to try out new styles of negotiating and new ways of thinking. Therefore, we ask that you exercise higher than normal discretion in talking about the experiences, behavior, or comments of others. This is particularly important when you are speaking to those outside of our course. We will do the same.

Integrity of the Negotiation Simulations: In many of the exercises this semester, you will be given confidential instructions. Please do not share these instructions with participants who have different roles in the exercise. We will often provide opportunity after the completion of an exercise to share these instructions with those on the other side and to reflect on the experience together. Additionally, please refrain from talking about the details or structure of the negotiation exercises with people outside of the course. To invent and refine a case is a laborious task, sometimes taking several years. If either the structure of a case (i.e., its basic challenge) or the substantive facts of one or both sides become widely known, the case would be of little use to future participants.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2014
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples
Presentation Assignments
Instructor Insights