MicroTech: Negotiating Online Teaching


HandshakeHow can we make online courses more interactive? Often people create videos of their PPT lectures as the basis of an online course. We know we can do better. It turns out that negotiation exercises can work surprisingly well online. The MicroTech negotiation is already described in another post (see the older post for details). Here, I describe a simple adaptation to use it in an online course. The negotiation focuses on the problems promoting cooperation across divisions (for example to achieve synergies). In the exercise, two general managers negotiate over the terms to transfer a technology to take advantage of a market opportunity. Sub-optimal agreements (money left on the table) represent transaction costs and inefficiencies that must be overcome to create corporate value. The debrief can also focus on alignment of activities/units to achieve a strategy. The discussion focuses on how to achieve requisite cooperation. This is hard to achieve in a competitive culture. How, then, can the firm create a cooperative culture? This, it turns out, may be a VRIO resource…

To conduct this exercise online, follow these steps

  1. Assign roles and negotiation partners from the class list (1/2 of the class in each role). The roles can be emailed to the individuals with their assigned negotiating partners. I would try to pair them with people they may be less likely to know well to simulate negotiating across divisions (usually not someone on the same project team, etc.).
  2. Students conduct the negotiation (outside of class) at a time of their choosing. It can be done through video conference, email, or in person.
  3. Collect agreements (have them emailed back) by the night before class. Better yet, you might want to set up a simple poll to collect the agreements (like this one which will allow you to download the results and copy them into the spreadsheet that is used to summarize/analyze the results).
  4. Debrief can be synchronous or asynchronous
    • Synchronous. In a synchronous session, you can present the results of the negotiation and engage in a rich discussion of organizational design and strategy. What levers would students suggest changing to increase coordination between units? (focus on things like incentives, structure, people, processes/routines, etc.)
    • Asynchronous. Alternatively, you could record or post an overview of the results and conduct the discussion asynchronously. For example, I would assign student teams (perhaps project groups this time instead of the pairs) to  make recommendations on how to improve coordination (less $ left on the table). I have each team focus on one a lever such as incentives, organizational structure, people (hiring/firing), processes/routines, or create symbols (to influence the culture). Each team can work offline and share their insights for additional discussion (synchronous or asynchronous). I actually think asynchronous works better since teams have more time to think through their recommendations.

Click here are all of the required materials (roles, spreadsheet, PowerPoint, etc.).

Contributed by Russ Coff

2 thoughts on “MicroTech: Negotiating Online Teaching

  1. Nice. I wonder though if you can stop them from sharing information. Most classes these days have a whatsapp group and share everything there. So the dynamics are going to be quite different than the ones done face to face.

    • That’s possible, If it is a concern, one could do the negotiation in virtual breakout rooms with a time limit. Normally, for the in-person version, students can hold the payoff tables next to each other to find the optimal solution. My students have all taken negotiation so that should be obvious. However, in my experience, only about 5% of the pairs get the optimal solution (30% of the potential value gets left on the table). If virtual performance was higher, there should still be enough left on the table that the discussion would be fruitful.

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