Before I joined the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program (NECR), I was working with a small to mid-size private equity firm where, as Vice President, I played an important role in high-level negotiations. This really piqued my interest in the field. My initial reaction was to look towards law, but upon further research and reflection, I found the NECR program at Columbia.
I found that the cool thing about the NECR program is that it can be molded in so many different ways. I initially thought of using the experience as a way of redirecting my career towards government and policy making. However, as I got more involved with the curriculum, I realized there was a way I could use my work experience more constructively. I was lucky enough to have Prof. Fisher-Yoshida for Advanced Negotiations and Prof. Coleman for Advanced Conflict Resolution. The concepts I learned in those classes certainly influenced the path I have taken since graduation.
When Rodney Erb and I started working together, we realized that too often in the business world, we perceive negotiations to be an intrinsic skill, an art you refine through experience. What we saw in our experience in our respective industries was that this perception created a lack of dynamism and flexibility that often hampered negotiations. While there was a desire to change the norms, there was a paucity of ideas as to how. So we started looking at developing a strategic methodology for negotiation preparation that would create greater dynamism and illuminate new strategies within the negotiation process. That’s how Negotiated Solutions Inc. was born. And what we do at work is inspired by what we learned in the program. We try to take those theories and concepts and apply them to the specific industries with which we consult.
The NECR experience was definitely a transformational experience for me. The program develops a set of skills that help an individual look at their world through multiple perspectives, which creates an amazing level of awareness both of yourself and the world around you. So, it’s a little like The Matrix: Once experienced, it cannot be turned off. It is up to us to define our paths and then utilize the curriculum to maximize its application and utility. As the field is so nascent, it is a wonderful opportunity to be a pioneer and truly define the field you work in.