Negotiation Journal

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 229–244 | Cite as

Negotiating in a Complex World

  • Michael Watkins


Drawing on the literatures on negotiation and conflict resolution as well as research on international diplomacy, the author proposes a framework for understanding complexity in real-world negotiations. Rejecting models of the process that are simplistic, sterile, or static, he argues that complexity is inherent in negotiation. In ten propositions, he lays out key dimensions of complexity and ways that skilled negotiators can manage it. The propositions focus attention on the ways negotiators create and claim value, shape perceptions and learn, work within structure and shape the structure, negotiate and mediate, link and de-link negotiations, create momentum and engineer impasses, and work outside and inside. The author also highlights the importance of organizational learning in negotiation, noting that most negotiators manage multiple negotiations in parallel, and most organizations have many negotiators doing similar things.


Conflict Resolution Organizational Learning Complex World Skilled Negotiator Shape Perception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allison, G. 1971. Essence of decision: Explaining the Cuban missile crisis. Boston: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  2. Arrow, K., R. Mnookin, L. Ross, A. Tversky, and R. Wilson. 1995. Barriers to conflict resolution. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, J. 1995. The politics of diplomacy: Revolution, war and peace: 1989–1992. New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons.Google Scholar
  4. Breslin, J. W. and J. Z. Rubin (eds.). 1991. Negotiation theory and practice. Cambridge, Mass:: PON Books (The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School).Google Scholar
  5. Christensen, C. R., D. Garvin and A. Sweet, eds. 1991. Education for judgment: The artistry of discussion leadership. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cialdini, R. B. 1984. Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: William Morrow.Google Scholar
  7. Cutcher-Gershenfeld, J. and M. Watkins. 1997. Toward a theory of representation in negotiation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Boston, August.Google Scholar
  8. Fisher, R., W. Ury, and B. Patton. 1991. Getting to YES: Negotiating agreement without giving in. 2nd ed. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  9. Gleick, J. 1987. Chaos: The making of a new science. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  10. Iklé, F. C. 1964. How nations negotiate. Millwood, N.Y.: Kraus Reprint Co.Google Scholar
  11. Klein, G. 1998. Sources of power: How people make decisions. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Kim, W. C. and R. Mauborgne. 1997. Fair process: managing in the knowledge economy. Harvard Business Review. July-August.Google Scholar
  13. Lax, D. A. and J. K. Sebenius. 1986. The manager as negotiator. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  14. Lax, D. and J. Sebenius. 1991. Thinking coalitionally. In Negotiation analysis, edited by Peyton Young. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lundberg, K. 1996. The Oslo channel: Finding a secret path to peace. Case C113–96–1333.0, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  16. Putnam, R. 1988. Diplomacy and domestic politics: The logic of two-level games. International Organizations 42(3): 427–460.Google Scholar
  17. Raiffa, H. 1982. The art and science of negotiation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Riker, W. H. 1986 The art of political manipulation. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Robinson, R. J. 1997a. Errors in social judgment: Implications for negotiation and conflict resolution. Part 1: Biased assimilation of information. Case No. 897–103. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Rosegrant, S. and M. Watkins. 1994. The Gulf crisis: Building a coalition for war. Cambridge, Mass.: John F. Kennedy School of Government Case No.. 1264.0.Google Scholar
  21. ———. and ———. 1995. Carrots, sticks and question marks: Negotiating the North Korean nuclear crisis (A) and (B). Cambridge, Mass.: John F. Kennedy School of Government Case Nos. 1297.0 and 1298.0.Google Scholar
  22. ———. and ———. 1996b. A “seamless” transition: United States and United Nations operation in Somalia-1992–1993 (A) and (B). Cambridge, Mass.: John F. Kennedy School of Government Case Nos. 1324.0 and 1325.0.Google Scholar
  23. ———. and ———. 1996c. Getting to Dayton: Negotiating an end to the war in Bosnia. Case no. C125–96–1356.0, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  24. ———. and ———. 1997b. Errors in social judgment: Implications for negotiation and conflict resolution. Part 2: Partisan perceptions. Case No. 897–104. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Rosen, S. and M. Watkins. 1998. Rethinking “preparation” in negotiation. Harvard Business School Working Paper #99–042.Google Scholar
  26. Ross, L. and A. Ward. 1995. Psychological barriers to dispute resolution. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. 27: 255–304.Google Scholar
  27. Rubin, J. Z., D. G. Pruitt, and S. H. Kim. 1994. Social conflict: Escalation, stalemate and settlement, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  28. Schon, D. 1983. The reflective practitioner: How professional think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  29. Sebenius, J. 1984. Negotiating the Law of the Sea. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  30. ———. 1992. Negotiation analysis: A characterization and review. Management Science 38(1): 18–38.Google Scholar
  31. ———. 1996a. Introduction to negotiation analysis: Structure, people, and context. Note No. 896–034. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. ———. 1996b. Sequencing to build coalitions: With whom should I talk first? Wise choices: Decisions, games, and negotiations, edited by R. Zeckhauser, R. Keeney, and J. Sebenius. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  33. Ury, W. 1991. Getting past no: Negotiating your way from confrontation to cooperation. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  34. Walton, R. and R. McKersie. 1965. A behavioral theory of labor negotiations. Ithaca: ILR Press (paperback reprint).Google Scholar
  35. Watkins, M. 1998a. Shaping the structure of negotiations. Program on Negotiation Monograph #98–1. Cambridge, Mass.: Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.Google Scholar
  36. ———. 1998b. Building momentum in negotiations: Time-related costs and action-forcing events. Negotiation Journal 14(3): 241–256.Google Scholar
  37. Watkins, M. and K. Lundberg. 1998. Getting to the table in Oslo: Driving forces and channel factors. Negotiation Journal 14(2): 115–136.Google Scholar
  38. Watkins, M. and S. Passow. 1996. Analyzing linked systems of negotiations. Negotiation Journal 12(4): 325–339.Google Scholar
  39. Watkins, M. and S. Rosegrant. 1996. Sources of power in coalition building. Negotiation Journal 12 (1): 47–68.Google Scholar
  40. Watkins, M., and K. Winters. 1997. Intervenors with interests and power. Negotiation Journal 13(2): 119–142.Google Scholar
  41. Zartman, I. W. and M. Berman. 1982. The practical negotiator. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Zimbardo, P. and M. Lieppe. 1991. The psychology of attitude change and social influence. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Watkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard Business SchoolSoldiers FieldBoston

Personalised recommendations