48 Laws of Power: How to Negotiate Globally

Last Updated Mar 30, 2010 6:35 PM EDT

Last week, we spoke with Thunderbird School of Global Management professor Karen Walch about her blog series "48 Laws of Power for 21st Century Global Negotiators" and about the shortcomings of taking a purely Machiavellian approach in many negotiation settings. This week, we discuss the challenges of negotiating on a global scale and key negotiating rules.

BNET: The blog focuses on laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Why did you feel it was important to have the word "global" in the title of your blog?

Walch: In business, even in a domestic setting, you have to work with people from different global cultures, either national and or corporate cultures. Even if we don't work internationally, the global context is creating so many multicultural settings that business negotiations happen with people from all over the world, either virtually or managers have employees, contractors or suppliers who are from all over the world. That tends to make negotiations more complex than just using fundamental principles of preparation. A straight, linear negotiation is not always going to get you what you need.

BNET: How does negotiation differ from culture to culture?
Walch: Fundamental to that is, what do we mean by being treated fairly and how do we trust someone? For example, someone with more Western concepts thinks that I can trust someone if they show a competency or have a skill, if they have the ability to do what they say they're going to do.

In the Eastern mindset, it's not so much that you trust somebody because they have the skill or the competency, but you trust them because they show commitment to understanding the contradictions and the delays and the flexibility that's required in a negotiation.

So those with a more Western mindset show trustworthiness by having a real focus on getting the task done. In a more Eastern mindset, trust and trustworthiness is built on how committed you are to the relationship itself.

BNET: The series is now halfway done. What key rules of negotiation have readers of your blog come away with?

Walch: The first is that preparation can take place at various dimensions. How do I plan to perform, to think, to behave, to feel and what I do believe in? Preparation in all dimensions is a must.

Another is that we need to be aware that Machiavellian and predatory practices are used, and that we can be aware and we can use counter-tactics.

The last element is that there is a huge cadre of negotiators who are talented and believe in the problem-solving approach. I would like to connect them to each other, because the more support that they get, the more inspired and energized and powerful they become when they realize there are a lot of other people who really understand and know how to use the problem-solving approach despite a tradition of Machiavellian approaches.

BNET: What will you do with this project when you finish the blog?

Walch: I've developed a community around this already, and I see a lot of workshops coming out of this. What I'm really interested in doing is featuring people's stories. The problem with negotiation is it's a very private, vulnerable thing to talk about the mistakes you've made and the fears you have. So a lot of these stories are confidential, but I find that people are willing to talk about them if they know that it's a safe, learning forum.

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.