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Global Leadership Conference Welcomes West Point Negotiation Project
by 2LT David White
West Point, New York – 31 March, 2009
Last Wednesday West Point’s Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Department kicked off its 4th Biennial Global Leadership Conference. The theme of BS&L’s GLC focused on “Understanding the Human Dimension in an Era of Persistent Volatility.” This emphasis on the “human dimension” highlighted the need to equip small unit leaders with the skills necessary to be effective in the currently complex battleground. WWI, often referred to as “the chemists’ war,” placed strong emphasis on chemicals throughout the war. Likewise, the Allies’ success in WWII was contingent on increased technologies, including the advent of tanks and more precise artillery. Information dominated the Cold War as the space race heated up with its satellite launchings and other operations. However, in current operations in the Middle East, people are at the core of military and political success. Social scientists, sociologists, and individual soldiers comprise this human dimension.
Featured at last week’s GLC was the West Point Negotiation Project. The WPNP aspires to provide tangible products and realistic knowledge to assist small unit leaders deployed in combat and stability operations abroad. These products envisioned include cargo pocket-sized references for Platoon Leaders and real-life case studies to provide leaders practice in negotiating. LTC Irving Smith, Academy Professor and Co-Director of the WPNP, remarked that the WPNP serves to fill a “gap in content” that currently exists. LTC Smith explains that much of WPNP’s power emanates from its ability to offer opportunities and synergies across both BS&L as well as other academic departments including the departments of Foreign Language and Social Sciences who offer cultural insight and theoretical, yet practical understanding of today’s global context.
Graduating senior Bryan Rodriguez, a founding fellow of the WPNP, highlights the importance of the WPNP’s mission. Cadet Rodriguez, a soon to be Field Artillery officer, emphasizes how training in critical negotiation theories, coupled with practical negotiation exercises, and followed by constructive review provide small unit leaders a “competitive advantage” and “reduce the risk of error” in negotiations. Additionally, Cadet Rodriguez reflects on how the 7-Element Preparation Tool, a tool developed to structure negotiators preparation for important negotiations, has become the impetus for his success.