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Reader’s Review, November 2013

By John D. Baker

Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond

By Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazeman
352pp. New York, New York: Bantam Dell, 2008
Paperback (USA) $12.47

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Deepak Malhotra is an Associate Professor at the Harvard Business School where in teaches Negotiation courses to MBA and Executive students. Max Bazeman is the Jesse Isador Straus Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and a member of the Harvard Program in Negotiation.

Both writers are highly rated by their students for their skills as classroom teachers. Each of them works with a wide array of organizational clients. Both Professors are known for their speeches, commentaries and writing. In summary, they are both experts in the field of negotiation.

Negotiation Genius has been in print for more than five years. Unlike many works on negotiation that fade rapidly from memory in far less time, this work remains alive and widely hailed as a leading contribution to its field. Let us see what you might find in it and why it belongs on your professional bookshelf.

The basic premises of this book are that negotiation is an essential life skill; that many individuals practice negotiation ineffectively; and that negotiation success is not the product of natural ability, but instead is the result of learning. Based on these givens, this book promises to provide its readers with a systematic approach to negotiation excellence founded upon recent behavioral research and illustrated through a wide array of case studies and personal examples. In sum, it presents an extraordinary negotiation Toolkit.

Even more importantly, however, the authors present readers with a basic goal statement to clarify the negotiation process itself. Some readers may discover that they have been preparing for the wrong objectives or ignoring key paths or obstacles in the process. Others may determine they have been measuring the wrong criteria for a real assessment of negotiating success. Whether you agree with the authors’ contentions or not, it is a perspective on negotiation you need to explore and perhaps even consider adopting, either in whole or in part.

The authors assert that the fundamental goal of negotiation is the creation of value rather than simply the claiming of value as many practicing negotiators believe and do. Reconsidering the basic goal of negotiation itself should be a valuable exercise for every negotiator. This book is the ideal vehicle for spurring that encounter.

In order to learn to create value, the authors’ Toolkit presents the How-tos of such a value creation negotiation process. Readers learn not only how-to prepare differently for a value creation driven negotiation, but also examine the strategies and techniques required to effect value creation. An entire chapter is devoted to the role of the “Investigative Negotiator,” who works to create value.

Having explored the value creation components of negotiation, the authors turn to an extensive exploration of the common errors and biases which impact negotiators and block or distort their perceptions of reality and impede or stymie their accomplishment of their negotiation goals. Unfortunately, the list of mental and emotional distortion factors is a familiar and lengthy one for most negotiators. Resident on the list are such well-known villains as framing susceptibility, egocentrism, overconfidence and non-rational escalation of commitment and a series of other biases. Fortunately, the authors have presented techniques for confronting each of these biases as well.

The last section of the book presents a series of strategies and techniques for dealing with a host of other negotiation situations that the negotiator may face in any negotiation. It is solid and useful primer for the negotiator. Addressed in this section are such matters as strategies and techniques to influence others; methods of dealing with the influence strategies and tactics of opposing parties; and ways of handling distortions, lies and irrationalities; ethical issues; and whether to negotiate at all. It is sound and proven advice.

The book includes a useful Glossary, a rich Notes section, and a thorough Index.

Negotiation Genius is an extraordinary work of value for every negotiator from the novice through the experienced practitioner. This is a book that belongs on your professional bookshelf.

Highly Recommended.

John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine  November 2013 Copyright © 2013 The Negotiator Magazine