GANING CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE: Cross-cultural negotiation for franchises.

Author:Castilla, Fernando Lopez de

The world exploded at Davos: This is how the founder of the Harvard International Negotiating Program, Daniel Shapiro, begins his book, "Negotiating the Non-Negotiable." And in a way, it actually did.

The Experiment

In an experiment that Shapiro conducted a few years ago at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, he brought together 45 world leaders, in the form of CEOs of the Fortune 50 list and heads of state, and seated them at six tables in a closed room. And, with the word "Tribes" on a giant screen, he began to talk about the power of identity and tribes to the confused audience.

Then he invited them to form their own tribes, with the other members of their tables, and gave them 50 minutes to answer a series of questions about the characteristics of these tribes. Every decision was to be taken in consensus among the members of each table, and for this, each individual should remain loyal to their own values and beliefs.

Thus, in only 50 minutes, each group had to achieve consensus regarding different topics and set the values of their newly created "tribes." At the 50th minute, the lights went out and the room turned completely dark.

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Alien, Rainbow, Explosion

Then suddenly, the lights came back and an alien appeared in the middle of the room - a person disguised as an alien, that is. Then, walking through the tables, the character said: "I have come to destroy the Earth!"

But he offered a chance to the six tribes: If, in a maximum of three rounds of negotiation, they all accepted to be led by only one of the tribes, the world would be saved. In other words, five tribes had to yield to one and their members had to assimilate the values and beliefs of this supreme tribe, without questionings of any kind. And so, the tribes, with names such as "Cosmopolitan," "Happy" and "Rainbow," began to negotiate. Well, at the end of the third round of negotiation, as expected, the world exploded.

So, if people that share a collective identity created in less than one hour didn't give in to the fictitious values and beliefs of another one, what makes you think that you have a chance to make someone, who has lived all his life in an environment and in the midst of relationships totally different from yours, give in to you?

Enlarging the Negotiation Table

Much is spoken of cross-cultural negotiation, both in boardrooms and in classrooms. However, it is odd to see that in papers of prestigious universities and in articles of...

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