Negotiation can either be distributive or integrative. In distributive negotiation, parties are seen as adversaries and outcomes result in one clear winner and one clear loser. Integrative negotiation is a different approach; parties are seen as collaborative problem solvers who rely on mutual interests to move forward and set agreements. Outcomes with integrative negotiation are win-win: both parties walk away with something they wouldn’t have achieved on their own without negotiating.
The whole idea of integrative negotiation was pioneered by a group at Harvard University in the late 1970s/early 1980s and documented in their “negotiation bible,” Getting to Yes. But even with the concepts’ 30-year history, it seems many negotiations are still hard-fought battles using dirty tricks or force. In some cases, a lack of focus on the interests at stake, rather than parties’ established positions, causes simple disputes to be brought all the way to court just to find a resolution – a costly process that is inefficient for all.
Could web 2.0 technologies be used to foster more integrative negotiation? A quick search on “negotiation 2.0” reveals that some work has already been done on this topic, but the field is still open. The University-Industry Demonstration Project created TurboNegotiator, a software tool to enhance university-industry negotiation. It quickly identifies common interests and areas that need compromise. This virtual 3rd party can facilitate a quick and efficient process.
Chapter 8 of the recent book Negotiating the Business Environment brings negotiation into the Twitter age. The book as a whole is focused on the specific business bureaucracies, markets, and networks that affect negotiations. Chapter 8 focuses in on social networks; what are the ways in which they can be used to overcome the resource scarcity, time scarcity, geographical separation, and the inability to maintain an ongoing dialog barriers to negotiation?
These technologies have a lot of potential to facilitate productive conversations between Towns, constituents, and land developers as well. This is an area we hope to see explored more in the future; tools like Mind Mixer and Engaging Plans may also be well on the way.
- Terra Curtis