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Breakthrough Business Negotiation

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Breakthrough Business Negotiation

A Toolbox for Managers


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Even if you think negotiations are free-wheeling, unmanageable, hostile juggernauts, now you can make them work for you.

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If you say po-tay-toe, and they say po-tah-toe, you say to-may-toe and they say to-mah-toe, you can work the whole thing out. Just ask Michael Watkins, Harvard associate professor and author of this solid primer on how to conduct effective negotiations. While "breakthrough" may seem like a title marketing pitch, since many of these techniques have been covered in other books, he organizes the material thoughtfully. Watkins emphasizes multi-party negotiating, examining the power of coalitions. He diagnoses the external and situational factors that shape even two-party negotiations and provides helpful examples, diagrams and lists. His clear interesting style is a big improvement over most ponderous academic tomes on negotiations. To get the most out of this volume, really read it, and then practice the techniques.’s position is clear: business managers, dispute resolution professionals and anyone facing multi-party negotiations should bring this to the table.


Basic Principles of Breakthrough Negotiations

Seven basic concepts apply in all negotiations. Adapt them to fit your needs:

  1. Every negotiation has a structure - Even complex negotiations can be broken down into major elements and interaction patterns. Analyze more complex bargaining as a linked series of straightforward negotiations.
  2. A negotiation’s structure shapes your strategy - Consider context when selecting an appropriate negotiating style. Don’t use a single approach. Resolving disputes, making deals or conducting multi-party negotiations each require different methods.
  3. Shape the structure yourself - You can modify the structure that will affect your strategy. For example, influence with whom you will negotiate and what agenda you will follow. Strategic steps you take before you sit down, and even after negotiation starts, can affect the outcome.
  4. Power comes from controlling the process - Act early to influence the proceedings, such as by adjusting the agenda, the flow and timing of information, and who participates. Even the order in which issues are addressed can make a difference.
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About the Author

Michael Watkins is an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, where he teaches negotiation and corporate diplomacy. He is also an associate and frequent participant in the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. He is the co-author of Breakthrough International Negotiation, Winning the Influence Game and Right from the Start.

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