International Business Negotiations In Multi-Cultural Environments

Matthew Cowan explains how he developed his negotiation skills in Patrick Rottiers' popular MBA course.


“This course enhanced my skill set for survival and success in a complex and changing world.”

Matthew Cowan, UC MBA student

I don’t know how to get what I want. Do you?

A charismatic master negotiator with international experience and a penchant for illustrative anecdotes layered like fine pastry enters the classroom.

He has an orange.

I’m amongst 10 students divided into two adversarial teams. The orange is placed on a desk. Our teams occupy seats on opposite sides as if preparing for trench warfare. The task is simple: “The winning team negotiates for 51% of the value of the orange.”

As an engineer, I entered this negotiation course with the naïve view that people will collaborate to find a pragmatic, objectively optimal solution to common problems. But needing 51% of an orange has me fired up, unwilling to compromise, and focused so tightly on getting what I want I’m blind to the people seated across the table.

Our first negotiation is an unmitigated disaster. Neither team wins.

Fortunately, not everyone on the course is an engineer. Over the coming days our mixture of personalities and experience, from a company director to a pharmaceutical representative, clash, grow, and develop our understanding. Sometimes the negotiation process works. Sometimes our negotiations degenerate into a destructive spiral. We always learn.

I had no idea how to get what I wanted. It turned out I had no idea what international business was, either.

We proceeded through real-world case studies examining how businesses negotiated key moments in their survival and development. Every time we thought we had a handle on the situation and a well-crafted solution, our eyes would be opened to the complexity of international business.

This is not a safe course with well-defined problems.

This course enhanced my skill set for survival and success in a complex and changing world.

The master negotiator guided us through the details and creativity required to solve the practice problems and how we could apply these principles to our own industries and careers.

Understanding negotiation and the creativity of international business has allowed me to make personal projects successful, plan my career trajectory, and optimise the outcomes and recognition of my professional work.

One last thing.

I’ll happily hold that orange while you enrol.

Learn more about the UC MBA

About Matthew Cowan

Matthew Cowan is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury specialising in separations science and materials development. With a background in chemical engineering, Matthew was keen to expand his network and business skills to share the benefits of his research with the world. He saw the UC MBA programme as the perfect vehicle.

Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here