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joint fact finding

What is Joint Fact Finding?

How can negotiators find their way into the trading zone quickly and easily? One proven method is joint fact finding.

 Joint fact finding is a multistep, collaborative process for bringing together negotiating partners with different interests, values, and disciplinary perspectives. This process, which helps maximize joint gains, has proven successful in helping parties resolve disagreements, particularly highly technical ones.

Joint fact finding begins by engaging negotiators in a collaborative exploration of a project’s feasibility and merits during its earliest stages, with the help of outside experts, before everyone begins taking sides. Whenever parties are likely to disagree on the fundamental issues at stake, enlisting outside help for an unbiased view of the facts can be a crucial first step toward reaching a win-win deal.

How, specifically, does joint fact finding work? Negotiators jointly select and hire a team of experts to produce a shared assessment. The experts may interpret the data differently, but at least they are working from the same analysis. By developing assessments or technical analyses jointly, negotiators avoid talking past each other.

This approach helps educate parties about the science behind the issues at stake. In doing so, it spurs agreements that are more credible, creative, harmonious, and lasting than those developed using a traditional “adversary science” process. Although a shared set of unbiased conclusions doesn’t guarantee that parties will come to an agreement, it does ensure that they won’t dismiss technical matters out of hand.

One word of caution, though: Joint fact-finding may not be the right choice if the more powerful or knowledgeable party might seek to use it as leverage to maintain the power imbalance.

To learn more about mutually beneficial agreements and become a better dealmaker and leader, download our FREE special report,Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

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