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Updated: 29 Jul 2017

The Art and Science of Negotiation (book review)

The art and science of negotiation


An analytical and mathematical approach in deriving creative solutions to a negotiation problem.  Offers practical guidelines in understanding your counterparty's perspective.

Level: Advanced
Categories: Business, Academic
Publication Date: 2006-11-29

by Howard Raiffa

The Art and Science of Negotiation takes a novel and bold approach to the negotiation problem from two perspectives. The title itself reveals this dual approach by viewing the totality of a negotiation by integrating the people puzzle and intuitive approach, the Art on the one side of the coin. Secondly, the book examines the negotiation process through a detailed empirical approach through models, mathematics, and analysis to complete the other side of the coin, the Science. The resulting blend is a well conceived and thought out process to teach negotiators how to derive a means to not only arrive at an agreement, but how to derive the greatest benefit from an agreement. The core of the book really seems to incorporate the best means to derive a win-win situation in its totality of expression.

Raiffa contends that in many situations, the negotiating parties often to fail to reach an agreement when in fact a compromise does exist, but the disputing parties have failed to adequately analyse the situation to their mutual advantage. He also suggests that many negotiations result in a less than satisfactory agreement where both resources and money have been left on the table. His main thrust is that negotiators all too often emphasise interpersonal bargaining abilities over that of analysis, and this is the primary reason why most agreements fail or result in unsatisfactory agreements.

However, some readers might find the mathematical formulae and the graph analysis used to describe some of the case studies to be daunting and somewhat beyond their understanding if they are not well versed in the subject of mathematics. That being said, there is an extensive amount of useful information to be gleaned that will add both thought and substance to the negotiation process.

One of the key themes of the book is that even mostly a simple analysis of a negotiation problem will help solve a negotiation dilemma whether it is a simple issue involving bargaining, or whether the negotiation is far more complex such as a multi-party negotiation involving multiple issues. It also examines the perspective of third party interveners such as facilitators, mediators, or arbitrators and they might take a prescriptive and analytical approach to the issues and parties involved.

By using numerous and various diverse case studies, the book engages and challenges the reader to learn the science of the analytical process to derive the most beneficial agreement. The cases dig deep into the meat of the dynamics of the negotiation process in its totality. The book goes beyond the cause and effect of negotiation theory in discussing the behaviour of the participating negotiators. The book argues that what many negotiators fail to utilise and apply a relatively simple analysis of the issues before them.

This book is a gem for any negotiator at any level of expertise. The analytical approach to understanding the counterparty perspective and the issues offers many practical guidelines that will be of great benefit for any negotiation situation. As the author concludes in the book, The need is not for the creation of new analytical techniques specially designed for the negotiation process, but rather for the creative use of analytical thinking that exploits simple existing techniques.

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    Timothy Dawes on

    Really insightful and revealing review. Thank you. I appreciate your underscoring that the technical side can be dense while also pointing out how and why to navigate it.

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