INSEAD Participant Interview

10 Questions on… Negotiation Dynamics in Abu Dhabi

René Madsen

Manages an IT business in Denmark

René Madsen manages an IT business in Denmark. But he went all the way to Abu Dhabi to do the Negotiation Dynamics programme – one of five INSEAD programmes that he has completed in the last two years. Here he tells us all about the experience.

Why did you decide to do a programme on negotiation?

Because I thought I was a good negotiator – and I wanted to be an even better negotiator! Today, I can really feel the difference, although it’s hard to put a number on it. I could be 10, 20 or even 50% better. And I don’t know if I’ve done any deals that I wouldn’t have done. But I’m definitely more confident of my ability.

And why go all the way to the Middle East to do it?

I’d done INSEAD programmes in Fontainebleau and Singapore – and I wanted to experience the third campus. Also, I hadn’t been to Abu Dhabi for over a decade and was curious to see how it had changed. Finally, as our company becomes more internationally oriented, I wanted to find out if the Middle East really was such a different business and learning environment.

How would you sum up the differences between Abu Dhabi and the other INSEAD campuses?

It was fascinating to learn about negotiation in such a different culture. There also were more Middle Eastern participants than in Fontainebleau and Singapore, where I was in much more heterogeneous classes. For anyone who does business in the Middle East, it must be a priceless experience to do a negotiation programme in Abu Dhabi.

What was the effect of the cultural mix on the classroom dynamic?

A multicultural class with a local bias sounds impossible to teach, but Professor Horacio Falcão, the programme director, was able to make it into a fully functioning group. A lot of the time, we were doing simulated negotiations, so it was very valuable to work with people from a totally different religion, value system and culture.

Based on what you learned, what makes a good negotiator – in one sentence?

It’s someone who can read other people, as well as themselves, and find the point at which all parties are satisfied they’re getting value.

What are the tools of the negotiator’s trade?

There are obvious things like understanding cultural differences, communicating, reading body language, taking notes and, very importantly, avoiding making any assumptions. But the best negotiators – like the best carpenters – are the ones who can use each tool when it’s needed without stopping to think about it.

Did you have any big surprises from the programme that you’d like to share?

Well, it was surprising to see classmates picked up by their chauffeurs at the end of each day! More importantly, I learned how much I assume without realising it – the trouble is, the more experienced you get as a manager, the more you assume. The last surprise was discovering that we all negotiate with ourselves as well as with other people.

Would you recommend Negotiation Dynamics and the Abu Dhabi experience?

In one word, yes. But if you want more, I met some of the brightest people I’ve ever met – from all industries and countries. Now, I’m just an email or phone call away from the UK, the US, the UAE, Papua New Guinea… everywhere except maybe Greenland.

What is the value in doing such a specialist programme?

It sounds specialist, but it isn’t. Life is all about negotiation – with friends, families and colleagues, as well as suppliers and clients.

What was the last negotiation you did?

It was at about 7.00 am this morning, when I persuaded my youngest daughter that it would be a good idea to get dressed and have breakfast.

René Madsen has also completed Management Skills for International BusinessLeading the Effective Sales ForcePowering Growth and Transition to General Management.

Click here to find out more about the Negotiation Dynamics programme.

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