AU orchestrates competition between future negotiators

For the fourth consecutive year, Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences played a major role in the international competition, The Negotiation Challenge. Business and law students from around the world tested each other's cross-cultural negotiating skills in the heart of Paris.

2012.07.16 | Jesper Toft Madsen

Every day, large and small companies are negotiating everything from multi-billion acquisitions to the price of a pallet of paper clips. Politicians negotiate compromises and so do next-door neighbours about the height of the pivet hedge.

The art of negotiation is the focal point of The Negotiation Challenge (TNC), which Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences has recently conducted for the fourth consecutive year – this time in the French capital, Paris in cooperation with IESEG Business School and HHL-Leipzig Graduate School of Management.

- Good negotiating skills are important because they make the world a better place. Negotiations resolve conflicts in politics, in everyday life and between companies, which can talk their way to success, says associate professor Peter Kesting, who is co-founder of the competition and teaches negotiation technique at BSS.

- The aim of TNC is to set the framework for more realistic negotiation situations outside the classroom. The competition helps prepare students for complex business negotiations, but it is also a matter of finding the best negotiator, he says.

No joint platform for negotiation
By means of role playing in inspiring environments, such as the intimate cafés of Montmartre and the panoramic vantage point by the Sacré Coeur church, 18 teams from countries such as China, Japan, USA, Iceland and Columbia overcame the cultural barriers. Exotic wines and an Arabian racehorse were traded in the four qualifying rounds, and in the final, the team from the ESSEC Business School reached first place by resolving the Greek euro dispute.

- In addition to the winning team being honoured, the participants gain valuable experience, build networks and find a joint platform for debate that normally does not exist. The Japanese, for instance, are very indirect and spend much time on building a personal relationship with the other party, while Danes are highly focused on signing an agreement rather than getting involved emotionally, says Peter Kesting.

According to Peter Kesting, an expert negotiator is able to adapt to different environments and be creative in difficult situations. It is also extremely important to listen, ask the right questions and find a community of interest without showing greed. Some of these qualities did characterise the French winning team.

Striving towards international network
The idea for the project derives from the other initiator of the project, Remigiusz Smolinski from IESEG School of Management in France. The project was carried out for the first time in Leipzig in 2007 with the participation of eight teams, but this year, there were nearly 80 applicants for one of the 18 places, which is the maximum number.

- Although there is strong interest in participating in the competition, we do not intend to invite more teams next year, as this will change the atmosphere. In future, we might instead try other locations besides wonderful Paris and eventually establish an international organisation in order to draw more attention to the importance of good negotiating skills, says Peter Kesting.

Read more about The Negotiation Challenge here: thenegotiationchallenge.org?

Further information

Peter Kesting, Associate Professor
Department of Business Administration – Management
Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences
Tel.: +45 87 16 49 65
E-mail: petk@asb.dk
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