Posted by: christopherfeld | April 2, 2011

Influence and negotiations

I’m going through a negotiations seminar for my strategy and leadership course. We are learning about various negotiation techniques based on collaborative approaches.

Collaboration makes sense to me because it is all about respect, and respect breeds collaboration. In the West we often get on our high horse and extol the virtues of democracy. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the perks of capitalist America. But when we look towards equality, equity, and other abstract frameworks to justify the underpinnings of our democratic ideology, none of these ideas truly hit the mark. The true cornerstone of any good relationship or political system is respect. In wanting to be respected, humans want to be considered at the table. Respect is what fosters collaboration and trust. Respect is recognizing one’s human dignity and understanding another’s perspective. By showing someone respect, one is opening the door to a reciprocal exchange trust, regardless of one’s beliefs. In doing so we are better able to put people first rather than the bottom line. As a result, people are more likely to work together to resolve an issue.

In opening the door to collaboration, one is increasing the chances of finding a mutually beneficial outcome. When John Nash formulated the Nash Equilibrium (the Nobel winning economist depicted on the film a Beautiful Mind), his framework advanced that each player may know the equilibrium strategies of other players, but no player has anything to gain by changing their strategy alone. In this scenario, no one can be better off with the given choices. Thus, it is critical to change the game. Altruism is one option.

Tit for tat games are a great example of the benefits of an altruistic collaborative approach. In tit for tat, one will produce better outcomes by resetting the Nash Equilibrium. Since the classical economist response would be maximize your outcome at the expense of your opponent, altruism resets the equilibrium. On the other hand, if you betray your opponent, then you they will punish you accordingly. Thus, incentives provide for a means to maximize the benefit for both parties.

In conclusion, to maximize influence, focus on the people first. Affording people the respect they deserve will reap dividends. If we get stuck on focusing on the bottom line, then we will miss the critical issues that could offer common ground.

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