“Never cut what you can untie.” So wrote French essayist Joseph Joubert, referring to the Gordian Knot, a legendary puzzle said to have been solved in an unexpected way by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. The Knot was so intricate that none who tried could disentangle it. Faced with the challenge, Alexander simply drew his sword and cut through the knot, offering a rather ruthless if effective solution.
Cambridge Enterprise (CE) is more Joubert than Alexander. We strive to build and maintain relationships with both our clients in academia and industry, government, charities and elsewhere. We do this, among other methods, by negotiating agreements to bring University technology and expertise to the world.
There is a bookshelf in the CE staff kitchen filled with books on how to do this successfully. It features titles on topics ranging from mindmapping to sales to starting a business. I am always on the lookout for a good read, so I gravitate towards the shelf often. Attending training courses on various topics related to commercialisation has provided me with even more to add to my reading list. But why not share? Here are my top picks for must-reads on negotiation.
William Fisher and Roger Ury’s Getting to Yes, which is a Cambridge Enterprise staple, gives us a framework for how to untie our own negotiating knots. Co-founders of the Harvard Negotiation Project, they devised an approach they call ‘principled negotiation’. This encourages negotiators to focus on understanding the other party’s interests, separating people from problems, and insisting on objective and fair standards in order to reach a wise outcome for the negotiation.
Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People is another recommended read. While the title may sound unrelated to the world of work and even slightly manipulative (“influencing” whom?), the text itself is rich in analyses of human nature and reminders of things that we often forget about in the course of our busy workdays. Like Fisher and Ury, Carnegie talks about the importance of listening and respecting the other party’s views, and offers tips on how to improve networking and speaking skills.
A more recent publication, and one of my favourite books, is Amy Cuddy’s Presence. Cuddy is a social psychologist and an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School. She shot to international fame following her 2012 TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, which explores relations between body and mind and the idea that just as the mind affects the body, so too can the body affect the mind. I came across it in a training course on how to deliver a successful presentation, but it has much wider applications, and has certainly informed my views on how people relate to each other, whether in a negotiation or in other contexts.
Not sated? Have a look at these top picks from other Cambridge Enterprise staff:
- Andy Walsh, Technology Manager – Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder explains the most common business model patterns, based on concepts from leading business thinkers, and helps you reinterpret them for your own point-of-view.
- Tania Balsa, Investment Manager – Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman offers a whole new look at the way our minds work, and how we make decisions.
- Natalie Kirsch, Patents and Licences Administrator – Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offers a new way of looking at the world for individuals and governments alike.
- Tony Raven, CEO – The Beermat Entrepreneur: What You Really Need to Know to Turn a Good Idea into a Great Business by Mike Southon is a practical guide to starting and building a business.
- Kasia Ladds, Marketing and Communications Associate – Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg looks at how women in business can make small changes in their life that can make a difference on a more universal scale.
- Ben Ting, Technology Associate – The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clay Christensen explains why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation.