Negotiating Value: What is Art Worth?

New Product: Set Sale!

by Amanda Reilly

The new role play Set Sale! debuted this spring in the HLS Negotiation Workshop, receiving an enthusiastic response.  Chad Carr, author and lecturer on law at HLS, reported, “Students really seemed to enjoy negotiating the case.  There was a lot of energy in the room and students were very animated in their assessments of the climbing or plummeting value of the artwork, depending upon the side they represented.”

Carr wrote Set Sale!  to be the inaugural exercise in the Spring Negotiation Workshop. It exposes students to core concepts in negotiation theory and negotiation role-playing techniques and provides a foundation for the rest of the essential skills taught during the Workshop.

In determining the current context for the case, Carr explained, “In both law school and executive education settings, I wanted the case to have a relatable context. That was part of the reason for writing about art.  The sale of art looks largely the same around the globe.”  Set Sale! involves a law firm that is downsizing its physical space and as a result selling some of its art works. One piece in particular has recently received media attention because it was widely adopted as an emblem of solidarity and hope following a terrorist attack off the shore of Massachusetts.

Zone of Possible Agreement

Zone of Possible Agreement

One of the main learning goals is to understand the difference between value creation and value distribution.  The ambiguity of the value of the art creates “a large zone of possible agreement (ZOPA) between the parties making distribution a key challenge,” said Carr. “However, there are also opportunities for both parties to create value in the deal, rather than just distribute value.  Those opportunities include the allocation of transportation and art storage fees, as well as finding ways for the museum to help promote the law firm’s new brand.”

Carr also added, “We want student-negotiator pairs to come to agreement on a variety of outcomes.  Seeing that there is a range of potential outcomes does two things.  It primes students to think about what constitutes a good outcome.  It also forces them to challenge their assumptions—for example, ‘Was I really in a weak position?’ or ‘What were the factors limiting my counterpart?’”

Set Sale! also allows students to experience firsthand the principal-agent problem. During the negotiations, students must disentangle their client’s best interests from their own goals and needs.   Carr reflected, “Students on both sides of the case take on the role of attorneys representing a client.  Since this is a law school, we want students to start engaging with some of the principal-agent tensions that arise in any representation.”

About Elizabeth Moroney

Case Studies Editorial Assistant
This entry was posted in Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Negotiating Value: What is Art Worth?

  1. Pingback: Negotiating Value: What is Art Worth? « Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

Comments are closed.