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The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World Hardcover – October 8, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard Business School professor Wheeler, a member of the school&'s Negotiation, Markets & Organizations unit, offers a clear-headed, creative approach to negotiation that is on a par with the canonical texts, Getting to Yes and You Can Negotiate Anything. Those titles suggest abandoning hardball tactics and turning every interaction into a negotiation. Wheeler, on the other hand, posits that the most important aspect of negotiation is improvisation and constant flexibility, acknowledging that each party goes into a negotiation without truly understanding the other person&'s position. Often, each party&'s real needs don&'t emerge until the negotiations are in progress. Wheeler discusses strategies for managing uncertainty and understanding the true extent to which preferences, needs, and relationships are constantly changing. He steers readers toward making wise decisions about whether or not to pursue a negotiation in the first place, conducting sufficient research, keeping their cool, and closing the deal. Wheeler&'s lucid, engaging voice is a major asset, and sample scripts help drive home his points. Agent: Jim Levine, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Oct.)

From Booklist

Apart from books that instruct on win-win negotiation techniques and strategies to control negotiations, this book focuses on how to deal with and capitalize on the dynamic nature of negotiations. It shows how opportunities are missed when people are inflexible in their approaches and how roadblocks can be overcome with spontaneity and creative ideas. It points out situations in which the commonly known BATNA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement) model is not always the best strategy. Wheeler advocates that effective negotiation demands rapid cycles of learning, adapting, and influencing to manage the uncertainty of a negotiation. Wheeler likens this to improv and countering surprises with flexibility. Real-life examples, including the development of the Citibank center in New York, illustrate how applying nine key principles can improve success in a negotiation. Other topics discussed include situational awareness, military techniques, and balancing risk and reward in determining when and how to say yes to a deal. The appendix provides a handy summary of the key points for future reference, and the book is a good basic guide to making the best of a negotiation. --Cindy Kryszak

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451690428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451690422
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Wheeler is the MBA Class of 1952 Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School where teaches Negotiation as well as a variety of executive courses. In previous years he served as faculty chair of the first year MBA program and headed the required Negotiation course. He has also taught The Moral Leader; Leadership, Values, and Decision Making; and, as Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, Mediation & Consensus Building. At HBS he has received the Greenhill Award for his contributions to the School's mission.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Dr Andrew Whitehead PhD on February 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The PON publicity machine has really fired up for Professor Wheeler, as it always does for one of its own but rarely for anyone else. (There is a lot of competition for big bucks from executive programs and negotiation consulting.) The result this time is a host of exaggerated and sometimes cloying claims to revolutionary ideas, great writing and excellent scholarship. The marketing hype led me to expect more than I got, but my overall impression is that this is a good book with significant flaws.

Wheeler comes over as an American business professor writing for Americans while proffering universal truths about negotiation. I guess his main market is in the US but he seems to assume 95 percent of the world’s negotiation exemplars are American, which is not convincing. I do know several expert American practitioners. However, in the various parts of the world with which I am familiar, Americans tend to be seen as under-skilled negotiators. The book has some international content but it almost always involves American success stories, including the adoring account of Richard Holbrooke’s “playful” solution to the Serbian-Bosnian dispute about car license plates. (Was it really Holbrooke’s idea?) Too many writers overestimate the influence of culture on negotiation but it does deserve more than the two token mentions in this book. The admirable UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is the only non-American to get significant coverage but we are not even told he is Algerian, let alone whether or not there is anything in his cultural background that might work in his favor as a crisis negotiator. The author prescribes eye contact as a universal rule for negotiators, which is but one bit of evidence that betrays his failure to explore beyond Euro-American society.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By James H. Gately on November 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book covers a lot more ground than pure "negotiation". Any one who deals with other people in one way or another can get something out of the concepts of interpersonal relationships that are depicted. The examples come from the world of business, sports, and entertainment. In addition, the author provides very useful summaries at the end of each chapter.
That said, if this is the first book of its kind that you are tackling, I would recommend starting with the classic book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury, which is referenced prominently by Dr. Wheeler.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By KMS on December 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I've read most of the negotiation books out there, and this is one of the best. The stories are entertaining, the advice is useful, and the writing is engaging and clear. Most importantly, Wheeler makes an important contribution by reminding us that negotiation can be a chaotic, ever-changing enterprise that is best approached with an open mind and an arsenal of improvisation skills. Drawing from disciplines such as jazz, improv comedy, and therapy, Wheeler artfully shows us how to overcome negotiation performance anxiety while at the same time remaining alert and focused. A must-read for anyone who negotiates at home and at work -- which, by the way, is virtually all of us.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Professor Sybil on May 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book by an accomplished Harvard scholar (HBS, PON) is interesting and reads well enough. Its major flaw is that it does not mention other writers who have already presented negotiation, in one case very explicitly, as a continuously dynamic interaction in which success depends on the intelligent, flexible negotiator's ability to improvise as he or she adapts and re-adapts to relentless informational chaos. Negotiation is a non-stop process of exploring and learning. See the review by Dr Andrew Whitehead on this site for convincing detail on the matter of who created the chaos management theory of negotiation, and first formalized the set of traits (e.g. flexibility, opportunism, anticipation, exploratory-diagnostic skills) that make some negotiators better than others at handling chaos and uncertainty. Clearly, there is at least one relevant work that Professor Wheeler should have read and cited.

Regardless of the quality of Professor Wheeler's book, was it vulgar for a highly favorable review to appear in the Harvard PON's prestigious `Negotiation Journal' (October 2013)? Professor Wheeler is the journal editor. The author of the review earned his PhD at Wheeler's home base, Harvard, has taught negotiation at HBS, and from 2008 taught for five years at NYU's Stern Business School. Professor Wheeler is a prominent Stern Speaker. Stern Speakers, which touts this book as the centerpiece of its promotional page for Professor Wheeler, is a commercial agency of the Stern Business School. The review may be fine in itself but it might have been more prudent and persuasive to publish it somewhere other than the "Negotiation Journal". Naturally, we must wonder if Professor Wheeler and his editorial board would have published an unfavorable review. I guess no one would submit such a review to that journal. Someone should give it a try and see what happens.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Maarten (TX) on February 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One cannot read enough about the challenges of negotiation. There are many nuggets of wisdom and experience in this book and it adds to the body of work on the subject. It is not easy to summarize because it lacks a clear structure even though Mr Wheeler tries to present a framework. If you approach this book as a series of insights and academic studies you won't be disappointed if you look for the next "Getting to Yes" or "3 D negotiation" you will be disappointed.
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