Optimal Collaboration: A Three-Tiered Process
But even when stakeholders possess political will, are equipped with solid negotiation skills, and adopt a cooperative mindset, why do many collaborations still produce results that are inefficient, ineffective, and relationally destructive? Too often, parties suffer from what I call rational myopia, focusing exclusively on joint problem solving while neglecting to tend to the deeper emotional and identity-based concerns affecting the parties and the conflict. They get ‘right down to business’ and discuss how to resolve major substantive issues such as land division or financial allocation—but neglect to attend to relational tensions that can block free-flowing discussion and impede trust, information sharing, camaraderie, and innovation. If we harbor resentment toward a fellow stakeholder, our mind naturally focuses on that sentiment and on how to respond to the perceived injustice. Attention is a limited resource, and grudges and grievances reduce the efficiency of the process, the value of the outcome, and the quality of the relationship.
Reaching Success: The Three Tiers of Collaboration
Optimal collaboration requires us to attend to three levels of human interaction: rationality, emotionality, and identity. By staying aware of these layers, we can address them all to some extent and decide which are most important to focus on during a crisis or other critical moment.
The first tier of collaboration is rationality, in which we draw on logic and systematic analysis to devise solutions to challenges. In short, we rationally problem solve, looking beneath opposing positions for underlying interests from which to invent options for mutual gain (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011; Lax & Sebenius, 1986; Mnookin, Peppet, & Tulumello, 2000). While stakeholders’ positions may be at loggerheads, underlying interests typically are much more compatible. Thus, individuals skilled in interest-based negotiation tend to reach better outcomes than negotiators who use adversarial methods (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011; Schneider, 2002). Additionally, by examining the reasons a stakeholder is politically resistant to collaboration, we can reframe the process to highlight benefits of their participation and drawbacks of their absence.