Professor Paula Gutlove on Managing Communications

May 05, 2016

Chess Pieces

Using mutual-gains negotiation as a leadership tool for the 21st century

SOM Professor Paula Gutlove and Gordon Thompson, Director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, apply mutual-gains negotiation principles to international conflicts.

A version of this article, titled “The Iran Nuclear Agreement: A Test of U.S. Leadership,” appeared in the Huffington Post in September 2015. This article also appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Management Magazine, written by SOM Professor Paula Gutlove and Gordon Thompson. 

Conflict occurs all around us—in our homes, in our workplace, in our communities, and on the world stage. A conflict can present us with either a crisis or an opportunity. It can precipitate a crisis that disrupts relationships at levels from intimate to international, potentially leading to violence or war. On the other hand, conflict can present an opportunity to negotiate improved relationships by developing cooperation and collaboration around shared goals. The ability to capitalize on a conflict through mutual-gains negotiation is an important leadership skill. When conflicting parties “get to yes” they can achieve win-win solutions that expand the pie, creating more value than either party could have achieved alone.

In the negotiation courses taught at the Simmons School of Management, students usually view negotiation from the perspective of conflict in their professional and personal lives. As a complement to that focus, much can be learned from applying the same negotiation principles to international conflicts. The Iran nuclear agreement of July 2015 is an instructive case. In working toward that agreement, the United States exercised leadership in a mutual-gains negotiation. 

This agreement arose from long, difficult negotiations involving multiple parties—Iran, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and the European Union. These parties have widely differing interests and goals. Yet, they eventually converged on a ground-breaking mutual-gains agreement. Thus, their experience provides important lessons for negotiators. Mutual-gains negotiation begins by uncovering the various interests of the parties at the table, then prioritizes these interests, and then develops creative options to meet the interests.  In today’s world, leadership through that process offers the best prospect of a satisfactory, sustainable outcome in a wide range of conflict situations.

Click here to view the full article in the Fall 2015 issue of Management Magazine.

Paula GutloveDr Paula Gutlove is a Professor of Practice at the Simmons College School of Management, where she specializes in teaching leadership and negotiation for career success, in the MBA, MSMGT, MHA, and Executive Education programs. She is also the Deputy Director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies (IRSS), where she founded and directs the international project Health Bridges for Peace. That project links health care with the prevention and resolution of inter-communal conflict, using a common interest in public health as an opportunity to bring people together for negotiation training, collaborative action, dialogue, and community reconciliation. Dr Gutlove is also an Associate of the Harvard Program on Negotiation Pedagogy Group, a founding member of the Leadership Team of the US-Muslim Engagement Initiative, and a founding board member of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. Dr Gutlove has served as a consultant to numerous international organizations, including the World Health Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.