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19 December 2012 | PR 12/232

World Bank set to use Loughborough academic’s research


Dr Ursula Ott

A Loughborough University academic’s research is to be used by the World Bank to improve its employees’ negotiating skills through negotiation modules designed in collaboration with Richard Lewis Communications Ltd.

Dr Ursula Ott, from the School of Business and Economics, has developed an intercultural negotiation framework which the Washington-based bank will use to help its staff to negotiate better.

This collaboration is a reward for 16 years of research that started when Dr Ott was at the London School of Economics and working on a game theoretical approach for international business.

“It’s something I never thought would happen, that Richard Lewis Communications would win a World Bank contract supported with my research,” said Dr Ott.

Dr Ott’s research was inspired by a book released in 1996 by Richard Lewis called When Cultures Collide, which identified three cultural types of people – linear-actives, multi-actives and re-actives.

And, ironically, her research was picked up by Richard Lewis Communications last year and helped them win a new contract with the World Bank, which was created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 and provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.

The result of her research was a paper called ‘The Influence of Cultural Activity Types on Buyer-Seller Negotiations – A Game Theoretical Framework for Intercultural Negotiations, which was published last year in the journal International Negotiation.

Dr Ott presented the paper at several conferences over the years and it was nominated for an Award of the Journal of International Business Studies/Academy of International Business (2005) for breaking new ground in international business.

Her paper was first presented to the managers of Richard Lewis Communication at a conference in Lisbon, and she sent it to the company for information last year after its publication.

That was timely because, during a very fruitful telephone conversation, it emerged that they needed some scientific results for the renegotiation of their World Bank contract.

Dr Ott said: “They said, ‘We are negotiating a very competitive bid for the World Bank, would you mind sending us your CV and the paper, and we will put it forward to the World Bank for the negotiating module’.

“I did not expect a lot and then I got an email saying they had got the contract. It was such a beautiful time, unbelievable.”

While there are linear-active, multi-active and re-active patterns in people’s behaviour, one type tends to dominates.

Dr Ott says that negotiators who are predominantly linear-active tend to be straight down the line, don’t haggle and negotiate quickly, with a ‘plane home already booked’. A lot of American negotiators fall into this category.

Multi-active types, who tend to come from the Middle East, Africa, South America and Latin Europe, are good at establishing relationships. Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, two of the world’s most respected leaders, come from Africa.

Re-active types are from the Far East, like China and Japan, and tend to be respect-oriented, patient and listen to their counterparts.

To illustrate how different types can adapt to people they are negotiating with by attending her MBA module and using her framework, she recalled how one of her MBA students came to her for help while negotiating a £1m pharmaceutical deal.

Dr Ott said: “She was stuck in a negotiation with an American and she was very re-active. She said, ‘Ursula, I have no idea how to get out, what do I need to do in this negotiation’.

“I said, ‘What about making an offer, don’t be defensive, be really clear and put your cards on the table’.

“She said, ‘I can’t do that’. I said, ‘try it’. And then she sent me an email saying she had done it and it worked. It was magical to see that when people understand that step of anticipating the various moves, that this leads to cooperation and an outcome. That’s the essence of my intercultural negotiation framework.”


For all media enquiries contact:

Chris Goddard
PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 223491
E: C.J.Goddard@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the Best Student Experience in England every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 12 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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