The Negotiator Magazine

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The ICON preparation tool accomplishes this task because it is accessible and because our training methodology encourages participants to immediately apply ICON to their own negotiation challenges. Participants benefit from cases and simulations in which ICON is practiced, and they make deeper connections to their own world immediately. By reducing the complexity of negotiation, we ensure more participants will continue to use the ICON framework and overcome barriers common to skills transfer.

There is much more solid research on negotiation theory than there is digestible advice on negotiation practice. Many findings are only applicable within a single sub-field. Relatively little research is transformed into educational or training frameworks. To solve this problem we set out to identify an uncomplicated, memorable and effective negotiation learning device distilled from the broader array of practical and theoretical knowledge about negotiation. Beginning with Getting to YES, and using our extensive experience training skills and facilitating complex disputes, we condensed a negotiation theory to its most basic and important elements. By focusing on four essential components, Interests, Criteria, Options, and No-agreement alternatives (or the ICON), we found a rigorous, useful preparation template. For negotiation teachers ICON works as a natural extension of Getting to YES and other user-friendly negotiation research of the past twenty years.

In our collective decades of consulting and training, ICON has been applied to innumerable real life challenges. Here we recommend its use as a teaching tool for skills-based education or the educational component of a broader project.

How ICON Works

ICON can be explained best if laid out in a diamond with Interests in the west corner, Criteria in east corner, Options in the north corner, and No-agreement alternatives in the south corner. Each point of ICON relates directly to its adjacent points. For instance, individuals or parties about to engage in a negotiation have specific needs or Interests they want met and these may underlie the positions they come to the table demanding (Fisher, Ury & Patton; Lax & Sebenius,). The parties’ Interests will help them generate possible solutions, or Options, to resolving the dispute. Their Options can be further refined through the filter of neutral Criteria -- objective standards or benchmarks. Their Interests may also help them to develop or strengthen No-agreement alternatives, or the steps each party will take if they do not reach agreement. A party can refer back to its Interests to assess the value and practicality of its No-agreement alternatives. Among its No-agreement alternatives a party will usually identify its best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA), which serves both to alert and prepare each side for the consequences if no agreement is reached.

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