Home Interpersonal & Group Psychology Cooperation / Competition Optimal Collaboration: A Three-Tiered Process

Optimal Collaboration: A Three-Tiered Process

18 min read


Executive Summary

Pressing global problems require optimal methods of collaboration to ensure that societies move toward progress and not chaos. At present, however, a breakdown in collaboration has materialized in the form of political polarization, social unrest, governmental impasse, and the fraying of democratic institutions. In this paper, I propose three measures of successful collaboration, highlight major barriers to its achievement, and recommend a three-tiered model to optimize the process.

At this extraordinary time of political, economic, and social transformation, the world’s most contentious issues require collaboration—whether to curb climate change, negotiate a trade deal, or revise the social contract between government and civil society. But current efforts to work together on issues of important societal concern have fallen short, as evidenced by the increasing hazards of climate change, the detrimental impact of interstate trade wars, and on-going partisan divides that have led to legislative impasse and, in some cases, protest and violence. On the surface, these divides are nothing new: conflict is intrinsic to the human condition. But advances in the field of negotiation offer innovative approaches to societal collaboration that can help people reach greater levels of integration. Drawing on research in the field of negotiation, I highlight three measures of successful collaboration, describe major barriers to joint work, and offer a three-tiered approach to optimize collaboration.

Measuring Success

Collaboration is a process by which stakeholders cooperate to address a shared challenge, ranging from completing a joint project to negotiating an international treaty. Each party usually has an explicit or implicit motivation to work together—but the process is not conflict-free; no two individuals’ interests and personalities will mesh with full precision. Thus, stakeholders must create maximal value while building good relations.

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