II. Challenges and Opportunities

Negotiation Support System Challenges and Opportunities
Following are some current challenges of conventional negotiation that often prevent participants from achieving better outcomes.

Challenges to effective and efficient negotiations

  • Adversarial Tactics

Our society places a high value on an individual or entity’s power and rights, encouraging them to work hard and compete in order to succeed. Although competition can encourage high individual goals, competition in negotiation often results in harmful adversarial tactics, and inefficient results.

  • Piecemeal Thinking

Without sophisticated tools to deal with the inherent complexity of most real-world negotiations, decision-makers are forced to deal with them piecemeal, i.e., one issue at a time. Moreover, a piecemeal approach to negotiation encourages positional rather than mutual gains bargaining.

  • Tedium

Giving adequate attention to important decisions tends to be very time consuming, especially in multiparty negotiations. Because of the demands of other important management and business tasks, negotiators often are unprepared and have too little time or resources for the decisions required.

  • High Cost

Drawn-out negotiations involving professionals can be very expensive, both in time and negotiation energy.

  • Irrational Decisions

Reasonable outcomes are compromised when decision-makers make logic errors, take short-cuts, or permit emotions to get the upper hand when under the stress of intensive negotiations. Without properly assessing the risks, parties are often unrealistically confident of a favorable outcome, should the matter be taken to court.

  • Complexity

Multiple issues and numerous possible outcomes can overwhelm negotiators, causing them to make decisions based on heuristics and emotion rather than reason. These problems are even greater in cases involving many parties.

  • Win-Lose Outcomes

Negotiation based on low disclosure levels results in vague ideas about reservation and aspiration levels of other parties and often misinterpretation of the parties’ real interests and needs. Tackling issues individually, as in a one-dimensional win-lose tug-of-war, inevitably leaves value on the table—unclaimed by any party. Parties either agree to a sub-optimal conclusion or miss finding a mutually satisfactory outcome, even when it was actually achievable.

Opportunities with Negotiation Support Systems
New negotiation support systems built with powerful optimization algorithms and enhanced by a maturing cyberspace, are now providing a real alternative to conventional negotiation, in business arrangements as well as the settlement of litigation. These new systems reduce negotiating time and cost for decision-makers in simple or complex cases, by putting them in control of a process that quickly clarifies tradeoffs, recognizes party satisfaction on all types of negotiation issues, and generates optimal solutions.
Internet connectivity now makes communication possible at a distance, facilitating the exchange of offers and counteroffers while simultaneously managing confidential information at a neutral site. When effectively used with a trained neutral, this process eliminates or minimizes some of the challenges of conventional negotiation, and can provide much improved negotiated outcomes. As such, the parties’ decisions are based on more complete and more thoroughly evaluated information. The parties not only achieve the win-win goals of cooperation but are also able to go beyond win-win with optimization.
The sophistication of systems such as those described above, is best employed by a qualified neutral facilitator, whose role is to provide orientation and guidance through the process. The combination of neutral facilitator and Internet site serves several purposes:

  • all negotiating parties and the facilitator are automatically networked with one another, no matter where they are located,
  • parties can easily exchange offers and counteroffers via the Internet at their own convenience;
  • all the power that is needed to number-crunch a huge problem doesn’t need to reside on each party’s desktop, and,
  • private and confidential data is kept safe and secure.

Next: III. Efficiency Frontier