The COVID 19 pandemic is not one of those cases, but many of the decisions and decisions are made at the time of crisis negotiations, and we can predict and prepare them to some extent.
This makes it feel very different, and this factor will panic many, but it is not a factor that will trigger a crisis.
Indeed, the accumulated wisdom of negotiation theory and practice can and should be applied to such situations. This also increases the chances of people debating and deciding together on possible solutions.
In a time of panic, however, there are at least two major traps that make it difficult or worse still inappropriate. Time drags on in a crisis, and in panic, it tends to be counted at the moment, so that thinking beyond the immediate can feel downright vulgar. If you are convinced that the crisis is existential and may not come tomorrow, focus on securing the “immediate,” even if it means hoarding toilet paper. That is exactly what is expected of you, which I think is unreasonable, but it is not always the case.
In a crisis such as COVID 19, where prevention and early action are crucial, timely action is crucial. However, the benchmark for negotiations is to think long-term, and there will be unintended consequences, including the potential for a decision to fail today or even in the future.
Of course, at noon the shadows are in the shade, and in a moment of panic, the morning seems too far away.
In a crisis like COVID 19, different stakeholders can have very different time horizons, experts driven by new insights and experts with different priorities. Nevertheless, crises are as terrible a time as they may seem, and should be ignored in the long run. The coronavirus will eventually recede (hopefully soon), but the medium- and long-term effects can sometimes leave institutions vulnerable to a return to normality after the crisis. Ignore intermediate decisions and choose between an immediate and a long-term path.
For example, suppose you sit on the school board and decide to switch to virtual teaching for the rest of the semester. The immediate concern is the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. It might be useful, for example, to define what Lawrence Susskind would call a conditional measure.
Students and parents are wondering if there will still be a school leaving certificate, what impact the change will have on grades and how it might affect them. The immediate aim of these negotiations is to protect us from uncertainty and to plan a way to the end. This is a conditional measure, but it is not necessarily the same as the full conditionality.
If we look at a short lockout, schools might close for a week for homework, but if we go for two weeks, we’re gearing up for distance learning. When we weigh each step, we think about the short- and long-term implications, and the longer it takes, the greater the risk of longer launches.
At the same time, we must identify all possible ways of returning and prepare the necessary staff for the school before it opens.
We are in the preparatory phase, but we do not yet know when everything will return to normal, “the headmistress said.
The idea is to reach an agreement that is the best we can do without it, and the idea of an agreement. It has become the subject of a new book, “Negotiating an Agreement,” which was presented as a groundbreaking book about coming together. If you sign up to the The Negotiation Society, it has a Knowledge Bank for a range of tools and resources to help you develop you during negotiations.
In times of severe crisis, however, decision-making is not only about avoiding the worst alternative (WATNA) but also about improving BATNA. Our thoughts are focused on how we can maximise potential profits, not on the negative consequences of our actions.
It may seem pointless to focus on the worst that can happen, but that is how it should be. Institutions like Covid’s (19) response must be to minimize risk and avoid catastrophic losses. If our goal is not to seek mutual gain but to avoid mutual loss, then we should be committed and ready to maximise profits, analyse costs and benefits, share risks and negotiate benefits, rather than acting for different interests. This framework focuses on what happens, not on what worst-case scenario – the worst – can happen.
The unprecedented, untested increase in distance work could multiply stress and further increase the need for negotiation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, much of our interaction at the age of COVID (19) is virtual, a social detachment practised to prevent the spread of disease. Research has shown that this distance is particularly bad and suitable for difficult conversations. This problem is exacerbated by habits of negotiation embedded in our culture, such as the inability to fall back on familiar realities that can create a sense of insecurity, uncertainty about what to expect, and possibly fear.
Innocence, the HPW and their colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In a panic situation, forgetting what Howard Raiffa calls “collaborative decision-making” and helping each other can be invaluable. The opening of negotiations in full, open and genuine exchange in search of common benefit may sometimes seem like an unrealistically idealistic pursuit of everyday negotiations, but it is useful and necessary in times of crisis. The situation is already stressful, and doubts, mistrust or distance do not help anyone.
Therefore, we must continue to focus together on maximising profits, and our strategy is to negotiate in full, open and genuine exchanges in search of shared benefits. This can be helpful in many, if not most, situations, but we believe that these two lessons are also important for those who panic or are vulnerable. We are currently negotiating the COVID 19 response in a wide range of institutional frameworks and we cannot negotiate as quickly as we would like, or as effectively as we have done in the past.