How 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. My MicroTech negotiation exercise is described in a previous post. 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
- 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.).
- Students conduct the negotiation (outside of class) at a time of their choosing. It can be done through video conference, email, or in person.
- 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).
- 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.). But this takes a lot of class time to do it right.
- Asynchronous debrief of outcome. I recommend recording or posting an overview of the results and conduct the discussion asynchronously (here is an example of a recorded debrief). This allows you focus the synchronous debrief on organizational design solutions for the company (to promote cooperation across divisions). That is the essence of the problem and it is best to devote as much class time to it as possible.
- Synchronous discussion of organizational design. The key learning objective for me is to get them to understand how hard cooperation can be to achieve. It is critical to get to this in the debrief. I assigned teams (4-6 students) to make recommendations to improve coordination (less $ left on the table). Each team focused on a lever (of Galbraith’s Star Framework) such as incentives, org structure, people (hiring/firing), or processes/routines. I had each team work in breakout groups (or offline) in a shared Google worksheet. The asynchronous approach may work better as teams can think through their recommendations.
Contributed by Russ Coff