This Thursday Rob put on a Negotiation workshop in the concept-car space. We played an oil-pricing war out as a simulation between teams of designers, keeping score with a case study devised by the Harvard Law Program on Negotiation. We started out by splitting into teams of four, separated across the d.school space.
Each team was either Alba, or Batia, two countries which were “trading” to another, unnamed country. The Harvard case study expressed the possible profits and losses of each country as a matrix. Teams were forbidden from communicating, and told they would only be allowed slips of paper to send prices to the other country. We played a full ten rounds, which means each group set a price ten times. By summing their profits, a team could come up with one measure of success; they could find out who “won” the oil trade wars.
Some of the designers had been in similar simulations before, and tried to urge their countries toward a calm and cooperative approach. Soon, though, Batia began to underbid Alba in a calculated play to maximize profits. Slips of paper flew back and forth at five-minute intervals, and pressures began to rise. By the eighth round, Alba’s team members shouted their frustration with every new slip of bad news.
We allowed ambassadors from each team to talk for thirty seconds after the third and sixth rounds. Each ambassador tried to make a hurried case for the actions of their team, and promise peace in the future. Soon, though, Batia was back to old tricks — by the end, Alba had sorely lost the trade wars, and glumly came back to the Concept Car space to debrief.
We discussed the implications of our negotiation simulation, with a bias toward the interpretation of the Harvard Negotiation faculty. Rob shared a little from Negotiation, the business theory class run every spring. We discussed the idea of ethical negotiation that the Stanford Business School promotes: maintaining trust with honesty and cooperation. Finally, we discussed the similarities between design problem-solving and negotiation problem-solving. Ideally, both situations are creative cooperative ventures for all involved.
Design Initiative Workshops are Thursdays at 8 PM, succeeding a social at 7:30, typically in Bldg 550. Contact Tito Balsamo if you have an idea for a workshop and/or would like to help organize one.