Breakfast in the Treehouse was buzzing with life this morning – not a single trace of timidness in sight after the many ice-building games in the forest yesterday. Breakfast was, however, not a lingering affair. It was very much in n’ out as we all had to hurry down to Amphi B where INSEAD’s professor of decision sciences, Filip Hron, was waiting for us.
The following hours all revolved around three key life skills: negotiation, negotiation, and *drumroll please* negotiation. During their first hours with Professor Hron, the students had to find a definition of the overly mentioned latter. The whiteboard slowly but surely turned into a big brain-map of all the words that could be associated: everything from communication, compromise, influence and discussion. It’s not something to be taken lightly: with negotiation, you influence how others think, feel, perceive and behave. There was also emphasis on the fact that negotiation is found everywhere – it happens (and I quote) “during 100% of all interactions and is the #1 skill you have in life”. After a presentation of some graphs the students were then asked if they wanted a break, and if so, for how long? After a quick negotiation between the sea of students and the professor, it was successfully decided that seven full minutes was the optimal length for both parties.
Once the students filed back in – with hastily poured cups of coffees in hand – Mr. Hron continued to guide us through his world of expertise. One thing that really got the students to interact, was his stroll around the amphitheatre. Most of them probably thought he was doing a little ‘walk and talk’ while lecturing but he surprised them all by leaning forward and snatching up a mobile phone from the front row of students. He did it casually while talking, as if it was the most normal thing to do and we assumed there was some purpose behind the temporary act of theft. He continued talking about the concept of power and of ‘win-lose’ deals as he climbed the steps and plucked another phone from the hands of a student. He then walked back and placed this next one in the row with the first phone and his own. Students started to catch on to this now – why was he doing this? He continues his criminal stroll and asks them if this a nice way of negotiating, if they liked having their phones stolen, how were they planning on stopping him? Some answers rose up, but nothing seemed to satisfy him as he reached the back row and found his next bounty, which as it so happens, had upgraded from a phone to a laptop. He grabs the macbook right off the desk and skips back to his podium at the front. Places it in line with the phones. Smiles with a hint of mischief in his eye as he waits for the students to catch on to his point. He then asks again, how will you stop me, when I have all the power and I am irrelevant to how my actions make you feel (*queue evil laugh*)? The students were saying all sorts of things now, voices overlapping as they tried to reason with the greedy character he was playing. He left his treasures yet again and made his way back to the top of the atrium. Apparently electronics weren’t enough at this point, as he next pretended to reach out and steal one of the students. Marcos, however, refused to be taken – he resisted.
And it was about time! Stepping out of character (and swiftly returning the borrowed goods) Professor Hron applauded them all for finally noticing the obvious – that if you give a person everything they want – you’ll only be giving them even more power. Resistance is therefor key in these situations, as taking a stand for yourself is the only way to stand against someone misusing their power. Way to make a point, right? Us counsellors were really enjoying the stand-off between the 82 confused students and the insanely well-played and intentionally kleptomaniac character – what a show! The purpose of this whole ordeal was then for the students to keep what they just had learned in mind as they were sent off in groups of two to complete their first assignment of the day.
Group member #1 and #2 each had to play the roles of representatives from two different pharmaceutical companies. Both companies were looking for medical cures – the one for leukemia and the other for alzheimer’s. They both needed a chemical compound found in a certain type of toucan’s eggs that they wanted to use for their first stage of human trials. The eggs are rare and in strictly rationed supply and can only be bought from the birdies’ local government (*tweet, tweet* – in lack of a better onomatopoeia for a toucan?). Long story short – group member #1 and #2 had to negotiate a deal to co-purchase the government’s annual supply of eggs. They could also chose not to collaborate, but there would then be an open bidding for all companys wanting to get the eggs – in which case they could risk not being the highest bidder. Their challenge was to see if they could cooperate and what deal they would settle on in terms of splitting the eggs and/or the insanely high price. Bottom line: to try and strike a deal that would be advantageous to both parties – essentially a win-win situation.
Lunch came and went right after this exercise and they were then launched directly into two different case assignments, where they yet again had to negotiate and see if a win-win deal could be more enticing and strategic than a win-lose deal. With all these deals and teamwork, it’s probably safe to say that these students are now master minds in negotiating and in getting exactly what they want. Caution to all the readers out there – these kids are not to be messed with! *queue suspenseful music*
Other than using the day to acquire some killer negotiation skills, the students also had their first introductory session to their YFCD assignment. They were fed a few more details about the Maywood Cycles company and it was essentially an hour used to get them a little more familiarised with the lay of the land of the company, it’s structure and general background.
After dinner our wonderful events team rallied everyone up to compete against each other in an almighty quiz. We all sat in teams outside on the terrace and enjoyed the last of the summer evening as heated discussions began over which planet is the hottest, what the name of Eminem’s first album was and which city is known for having a high percentage of Italian immigrants post WW2. The questions were hard but with such a high level of team spirit from everyone, all teams managed and some even excelled in spite of their lacking trivia talents. With nine minutes before lights out, the winners were announced, cheers arose, the prize was handed out and all the students were herded back to their rooms to get a good night’s sleep in preparation of yet another eventful day tomorrow.