Using Group Support Systems (FacilitatePro) in a learning-centered negotiation case exercise, J. Bragge

Case presenter

Johanna Bragge, Assistant Professor of Information Systems Science
Aalto ECON, Department of Information and Service Economy


Using Group Support Systems (FacilitatePro) in a learning-centered negotiation case exercise  SLIDES (PDF)
Keywords: Win-win negotiations, Multiple parties, Electronic brainstorming, Ideation, Anonymity, Group Support Systems, FacilitatePro

Basic course information

27C02000 Negotiation Processes (6 cr), bachelor level course in Business Technology programme, https://noppa.aalto.fi/noppa/kurssi/27C02000, 80 students. The case exercise is conducted together with Pirkko Lahdelma (http://www.servicefactory.aalto.fi/fi/contact-2), who lectures the course.


The goal of this 2-part case exercise is to provide the students with hands-on experience on brainstorming options and reaching agreement in multi-party "win-win" negotiations using a facilitated and efficient group process. The case is done in teams of six students (including international students), and the case problem is genuine for them: How to shorten the prolonged studying times in European universities? As a result of the case, the student teams each prepare their own suggestion to be addressed for the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Study process

In win-win negotiations the parties are supposed to exchange relatively openly information to identify the interests, values, and possible solutions for increased mutual gain, and incorporate them into their final solution. For this purpose it is recommendable to hold separate brainstorming sessions to induce creative thinking in order to invent several "not-too-obvious" options for solutions.
Regarding this learning-centered case-exercise we have planned a two-part facilitated group process for rehearsing multi-party win-win negotiations. The first part of the exercise lasts 2.5 hours (including an informal icebreaker exercise), and consists of

  1. discussing the reasons for prolonged studies (as a warm-up task for getting acquainted with the tool used),
  2. disclosing their fundamental values and interests regarding the issue (for aiding in inventing out-of-the-box solutions), and finally,
  3. brainstorming for solutions. Osborn's seminal rules are applied in the brainstorming phase (do not criticize, go for wild ideas, focus on quantity, and build synergy by combining ideas), after which a critical discussion commenting on the brainstormed solution ideas is still held.


The second part (after a couple of days' break) lasts also 2.5 hours in total and consists of negotiating and reaching a joint agreement on the previously brainstormed measures how to shorten university studies (only up to 30% of the measures can be included in the final agreement). In this latter part, the teams are given freedom to choose on how to divide the allocated 2.5-hour time for the final tasks, and whether they want to apply the electronic GSS tool also in this agreement formation phase (for example in arranging a quick group vote or additional electronic discussions on the solutions).

Communication and interaction

Two thirds of the 80 course students use the electronic GSS tool in a large computer class setting. Half of them brainstorm non-anonymously with their name attached to each idea or comment submitted, and half anonymously (this arrangement is for research purposes). Moreover, a third of the course students use paper flipcharts and Post it -notes and verbal discussions (in another classroom) guided by the same facilitated process for completing the case exercise (as a control group for research purposes).

Learning and feedback

Negotiating (including brainstorming) with multiple parties is impossible to learn just by reading from the book – real hands-on experience is necessary. We also believe that a genuine case problem for the students enhances their learning experience. In typical negotiation case exercises, the students need to learn somebody else's interests and values from paper instructions first. In this case exercise, they can be themselves and use their own fundamental values and interests as such.
The students complete three comprehensive web questionnaires during this case exercise (pre-, middle- and post-negotiation) that help them in preparing and/or analyzing the negotiations or their personal conflict management style. We also provide feedback vie e-mail on their personal conflict management style based on their answers (whether they can be described as contending, yielding, avoiding, problem solving or compromising). After the exercise, the students make a personal analysis (5-6 pages) of their team's negotiations, which is graded, thus providing them feedback from their personal learning on the topics lectured earlier. In their personal analysis, the students address the following issues (among others):

  • Was the negotiation outcome successful or not? Why/Why not?
  • What kind of process resulted in the outcome? What choices did they make and how regarding the process (when they were free to choose how to proceed)?
  • Were the negotiations integrative (win-win) or distributive in nature? Why?
  • What tactics were used during the negotiations?
  • What did they learn from the exercise that they might want to apply to future negotiation situations or problems?


The case exercise is planned to be repeated (possibly with an other topic to be brainstormed/negotiated) for the third time in Fall 2012.