Borders, Environment, and Trade in the Americas
Habib Chamoun-Nicolas, a professor from the Cameron School of Business at the University of St. Thomas describes his experience with the Borders, Environment, and Trade in the Americas simulation.
Why I use the Borders, Environment, and Trade in the Americas simulation:
I wanted to explore a multi-party, multi-issue negotiation that can go beyond the MBA student's business exercise experiences. I wanted the students to be exposed to a more realistic case simulation in which they can act as diplomats of specific countries, do research, and understand domestic issues, positions, strategic needs, and strengths and weaknesses. Also, I wanted the students to develop a coalition-forming strategy to gain negotiation power. Students had an opportunity to think and strategize regional multilateral agreements and bilateral agreements, depending on needs, issues, and positions.
Also very important was the students' mixed-mode communication experience while negotiating. This simulation was designed to be used as an outside-of-the-classroom negotiation. Students could feel and experience the difference between negotiating online, sending messages, delivering and receiving e-mails, and conducting chats, vs. traditional face-to-face meetings. Multi-mode communicating is more representative of an actual negotiation.
How ICONS connects with my course:
My course was an International Trade and Negotiation MBA special topic summer course at the University of St. Thomas. Learning from the most famous negotiators in history, the Phoenicians, to the modern ICONS Project simulation, I used a syllabus that covers the following topics:
- International Trade and negotiations
- Basic principles of negotiation
- Single-issue two-party distributive negotiation to collaborative negotiation
- Single-issue multi-party cases to multiple-issue multi-party negotiations
- Internal vs. external negotiations
- Culture and Negotiations
- Commercial vs. Diplomatic negotiations
- Negotiate like a Phoenician (Take a look at history and see what the best negotiators did and how can you apply it in today's environment)
- Deal Methodology and the use of Tradeables
In the classroom we cover state-of-the-art cases from Harvard PON cases, Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University, Stanford University Negotiation, and Instructor real role plays, cases, and simulations.
The ICONS simulation was in addition to in-class material and was conducted online outside of class. At every classroom meeting, I dedicated 10 minutes to discuss the ICONS simulation and what the students needed to do in each session.
Time I allot to each phase of the simulation (preparation, online negotiation, debrief):
My course was a six-week summer course. We met every Monday and Wednesday evening. In the first two weeks, students performed research on their specific country, completed the country worksheet, filed their position paper, and developed their strategy.
Students were asked to send at least three messages per week and three questions per week to other countries for the first three weeks. In the second week, since I noticed some students didn't answer inquiries from other countries, I set as a rule of the simulation that everyone that didn't answer an inquiry from others would be getting a penalty in the game. Subsequently, everyone started communicating more frequently.
By the third and fourth week of class, I specified that students needed to do conferencing and making proposals. I initiated a rule that a country needed to submit at least one proposal by the fourth week of class and that others needed to respond. On the fourth week of class, I set a rule that students needed to do conferencing at least once a day. Scheduling conferencing was the most difficult task. The MBA students are professionals with very busy schedules, so setting specific times for country combinations was quite difficult.
I left the conferences open on the fifth week. I checked the messaging between countries and determined which countries wanted to have private conferencing. Finally, I set country conference combinations based on the students' messaging aspirations and expectations. In the future, I will allocate classroom time to set the conferences while everyone is present. After conferencing, the students had an opportunity to vote for proposals and write their final assignment reaction paper.
In the sixth week, I opened all the conversations on the simulation so that the students could go back and read the messaging of the different countries and reflect on what really happened in the negotiation. They analyzed coalition formation and how this helped or hindered the negotiation strategy.
Instructor and student roles during the simulation:
My role was observing and giving directions via e-mail outside of the simulation. I wanted the students to discover and learn as much as they could on their own after giving instructions in the classroom before doing the simulation outside of the classroom. I examined simulation messaging daily, noting proposal postings and requests for conferencing. I sent e-mail reminders as needed to promote messaging, proposals, and conferencing, depending on course stage.
I provided ICONS materials to the students to guide their progress, such as the country worksheet, the position paper, proposal and strategy guidelines, and then the reaction paper. I helped them with the debriefing questions to prepare for the reaction paper, which I found was very helpful in meeting student expectations.
My role was to facilitate the next steps in the simulation without getting involved in it. I found the process more important than the actual subject they were negotiating. I instructed students to look at actual newspapers to find out how the actual negotiations progressed among the countries they have represented: Venezuela, USA, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Honduras, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, etc. I tried to guide the students with the simulation to be as realistic as possible by looking at real online newspapers and information that the ICONS Project provided through many resourceful avenues.
Learning objectives and assessment:
Learning objectives were:
- To think critically
- To learn to do team work
- To persuade and communicate effectively
- To learn the complexity of negotiating online
- To conduct regional (multilateral) and bilateral agreements
- To learn the negotiation process by doing
- To use tactics of negotiation effectively
- To reflect the effect of diplomatic negotiations on their own business
- To understand the effect and stability of coalitions and the power of negotiation
The students reached these goals. Students conducted face-to-face exercises in the classroom and reflected upon the lessons learned in the simulation. Students communicated and negotiated more collaboratively by the end of the course having sponsored proposals. I will share student testimonials concerning the class and simulation.
My advice for instructors preparing to participate in an ICONS simulation for the first time:
I recommend the following:
- Give the students a two-week period to research their country. Have them deliver a country worksheet, position paper, strategy, and proposal by the third week. Encourage students to set at least one multilateral proposal and one bilateral.
- Email messaging between students outside of the simulation should not be allowed.
- Students need to login in the simulation routinely to find out if they have a message. This was the biggest challenge with my students. They were not always logged into the simulation. The instructor needs to play the role of information flow monitor, periodically encouraging students to be more active as well as issuing a reminder concerning the time window for voting on proposals and the deadline to deliver the reaction paper.
I actually love the ICONS Simulation! It is a great teaching tool!
The ICONS Project team is the best. They are always there for you all the time. It was one of the best customer service experiences I've had. They are very patient and answer all the questions you have about the simulation. They even think outside the box with you. It complements my teaching very well.
I envision ICONS Project simulations as an avenue to do research by analyzing the different negotiations with different students from different countries. I will use ICONS simulations in future courses. I am planning to do a multi-country negotiation with my students from different countries using an ICONS Project simulation.
Feedback from my students:
“The ICONS Project Simulation and class material helped me think deeper and differently about the various negotiation strategies and the ways in which negotiation can take place.”
“…the most exciting part of the course is the International Negotiation ICON Simulation exercise which allows students to experience and play an active role in the negotiation process on an international scope. This by far is the most useful part of the course because it combines every element and principle of negotiation taught and allows the student to apply all of them extensively in a real-life context. Professor Chamoun's International Trade and Negotiation course was a challenging and extremely enjoyable experience which taught me very valuable lessons that I will use for the rest of my life in situations both professional and personal.”
Do you have a story to share about how you incorporated an ICONS simulation into your instruction? ICONS would like to post it in this special section of our website. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (301) 405-4172 to participate.