Types of Power in Negotiation: Chaos Theory and Bargaining Scenarios

What research about uncertainty says about negotiation tactics in chaotic negotiation scenarios

By on / Dealmaking

types of power in negotiation chaos theory and bargaining scenarios

To exhibit power in negotiation, there are different ways a negotiator can display an ability to exert control over the negotiation process. But what about those bargaining scenarios in which the negotiator is unable to gain control of proceedings? How should she formulate her negotiation strategy?

IBM researchers Cynthia F. Kurtz and David J. Snowden have developed a process for building internal consensus in situations where high uncertainty exists. Facilitators lead managers in making sense of novel challenges and opportunities. A key goal is distinguishing complex cases from pure chaos. In the former, cause-and-effect relationships may be nonlinear and obvious only in retrospect. In truly chaotic environments, there is never a pattern to discern.

Thus defined, complexity calls for experimentation by “probing, sensing, and responding,” write Kurtz and Snowden. Once patterns become more apparent, managers can reinforce positive dynamics and attempt to destabilize undesirable interactions.


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Negotiators who function in volatile markets, for instance, should first target deals that are not only attractive in their own right but that also reveal the most information about how prices are moving.

By contrast, chaotic situations are so turbulent that there are no trends to monitor. Instead, they call for crisis management.

The boundary separating complex and chaotic situations is blurry. Indeed, one of the goals of IBM’s decision-making process is to encourage managers to recognize what is potentially knowable “and thus worth testing” and what is likely beyond anyone’s ken. Internal consensus on strategy is reached more easily when managers explicitly address how they make sense of the complicated worlds they confront.

Related Negotiation Skills Article: Metaphorical Negotiation and Defining Negotiation Skills

Know Your BATNA: The Power of Information in Negotiation

Types of Power in Negotiation: Negotiation Research and Eliminating Gender Difference in Bargaining Scenarios


Discover how to boost your power at the bargaining table in this FREE special report, Dealmaking: Secrets of Successful Dealmaking in Business Negotiations,
from Harvard Law School.


Adapted from “Making Sense of the Unknown,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter.

Originally published October 2010.

Comments

2 Responses to “Types of Power in Negotiation: Chaos Theory and Bargaining Scenarios”

  • You’ll need to elaborate better in order to relate Chaos Theory to ADR / facilitation.

    Chaos Theory is about dynamical system that have the these properties:

    It’s sensitive to initial conditions;
    It’s topologically mixing;
    It’s periodic orbits must be dense.

    7th Law of the Fifth Discipline: “Cause and effect are not closely related in time and space” (Peter Senge).

    Reply

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