Negotiation and Diplomacy - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Negotiation and Diplomacy

Course Number 2218

Professor James Sebenius, Harvard Business School
Professor Nicholas Burns, Harvard Kennedy School
Professor Robert Mnookin, Harvard Law School
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
22 Sessions
Exam or Paper
Jointly-listed at Harvard Law, Harvard Kennedy, and Harvard Business Schools
Meetings held on HKS campus

Formerly: Great Negotiators, Effective Diplomacy, and Intractable Conflicts

Course Overview

What can we learn from studying great negotiators and diplomats grappling with some of the world's most challenging problems? This course explores how modern diplomacy and negotiation can effectively address seemingly "intractable" international conflicts and overcome barriers to agreement in civil wars, interstate conflicts, as well as in trade and finance. Drawing on in-depth cases, the course will develop diagnostic and prescriptive characteristics of effective negotiation and diplomacy as tools of political, military, economic and financial statecraft.

The course will pay close attention to the "how" of negotiation and diplomacy. How do officials conduct diplomacy at the highest levels? How can leaders most effectively use negotiation, diplomacy and economic and/or military pressure? How can these tools overcome daunting barriers to desired agreements? We will study examples where negotiation and diplomacy succeeded and where they failed. To advance these objectives, the course will draw on case studies about and videotaped interviews with some of recent history's greatest negotiators. In particular, as part of Harvard's American Secretaries of State Project, course faculty have held hours of videotaped discussions with living former Secretaries of State (Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice) about their most challenging negotiations. Through discussion and debate, we will draw out key lessons from this experience.

We also expect to make a number of small events featuring high-level visitors (optionally) available to class members.

This course will help students develop and practice negotiation-related skills critical to success in public service as well as in the private sector: deep knowledge of the core issues of our time, analytical thinking, cogent discussion, and effective writing.

Active class participation with cold calling will be the norm. Course readings beyond the case studies will be eclectic and interdisciplinary. Students should attend all classes having done all readings and prepared to engage in discussion and debate. Beyond full class participation, course requirements include two short paper assignments (1,000 words maximum per paper), and a final exam. With the advance permission of an instructor, each student may choose to submit a 4,000-6,000-word term paper on an approved topic in lieu of the final exam. Grading will be on the basis of the quality and frequency of class participation, the short paper assignments, and the final exam or paper. For Law, Business, and Kennedy School students, the final course grade will be the responsibility of the professor from that school and will be based on the standards of that school.

A prior or concurrent negotiation course is a course prerequisite unless, based on his or her background, a student obtains written permission from one of the instructors.

Note: The class will be limited to 100 students with the initial expectation of equal numbers of students from the each of the Law, Kennedy, and Business Schools; a few students from other schools, including Harvard College, may be admitted.