Multiparty Negotiation: Definition, Challenges & Examples

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  • 0:03 Multiparty Negotations
  • 0:51 Information Complexity
  • 1:44 Rise of Coalitions
  • 2:23 Procedural Complexity
  • 3:15 Social Dynamics
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

Sometimes, it's a challenge just to get two people to agree on what movie to see. So, how do you get 170 countries to agree to a climate control treaty? In this lesson, we'll examine the challenges of multiparty negotiations and provide examples.

Multiparty Negotiations

Imagine going to a conference with a group of colleagues. It's dinner time, and your group is standing in front of the hotel trying to decide where to go. Two people don't eat seafood, one person is a vegan, and another person hates sushi. One person says they're good with anything, but every time something is suggested, they say no. Paralysis ensues.

Now consider multiple countries negotiating a treaty of some sort. There's much more at stake than our hypothetical dinner group. A multiparty negotiation involves two or more parties in the bargaining room. There are some inherent challenges in larger scale negotiations - more information is in play, coalitions form, procedures are more complex, and there are social dynamics.

Information Complexity

In a negotiation involving a large number of parties, there is much more information to deal with. Each party brings their own interests, positions, strategies, desired outcomes, and perceptions. Each party also has their supporting evidence for their positions - expert opinions, facts and figures, and projections. Multiply these factors by the number of participants, and you can see things get complicated in a hurry.

To keep track of things, one suggestion is to build a spreadsheet, also known as a payoff matrix, prior to party negotiations. You can put the parties into rows and use columns to list their interests and issues. You can prioritize the issues and rank them with a points or weighting system. As the negotiation progresses, you can update the matrix to reflect changes in position.

Rise of Coalitions

Coalitions are temporary subsets of a larger group that band together to advance a common purpose. Becoming part of a coalition is a good way for a weaker party in the larger group to gain power. Within the coalition, there is typically a mix of cooperation and competition. Coalitions may try to poach members from other coalitions and may be paranoid about leaked information or losing their own members.

Coalitions offer members an alternative to dealing one-on-one with the differing strategies within the larger group. Instead, within the coalition, you can deal with them collectively.

Procedural Complexity

Managing a big group can be challenging under any circumstance, much less trying to get them to agree. You want to ensure everyone gets a chance to express themselves, so you have to decide on a format. Do you allow free-form discussions or just go around the table? Do you allow everyone to make an opening statement and then have an open discussion? You also have to decide how decisions are made: majority rule, unanimity, or consensus.

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