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Updated: Nov 9, 2023

By Mark Young

President, Rational Games, Inc.

This month saw a highly enjoyable “gig” where the beauty of competition was illustrated: participation in the team of jury “experts” at the Warsaw Negotiation Round (WNR).

Established in 2009, this is one of the larger college-based negotiation competitions, with twelve teams of three from schools all over the world competing for the prize. After three years of pandemic, this live version was eagerly awaited. The first thing that struck me at this event was the flawless organization. An organizing committee of 50 students (!!) had things meticulously planned: transportation for all participants and experts, beautiful and classy venues around Warsaw, one per round, materials, logistics, meals, and a great final “Banquet”. We were well looked after and everything ran very smoothly.

I was also most impressed with the motivation of the students and the high quality of the negotiations. Most of the male participants were in suits and ties (on a weekend) the women were also smartly dressed, and there was a real buzz in the room each morning in anticipation of each round of competition. They took this seriously and also had a lot of fun doing it. Inspiring! Their demonstration of key negotiation skills such as asking good questions, establishing advantageous ground rules and working together creatively to “make the pie bigger” were a joy to behold.

Finally, the entire event was imbued with the mantra of “learning, not winning”. Sure, the tournament was competitive, with a roar of approval for the final winning team. But more important is that each participant left the three days together with the feeling that they had learned more about negotiation. The intensive practice rounds and personal feedback were better than any seminar.

And the final banquet exuded a true “Win-Win” culture. Now how to translate this to the real world. How can we compete with spirit, attain deep learning and genuinely have fun together, all at the same time? Surely this model does not apply only to competitions!

Comments welcome!


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