How to Reduce Uncertainty in a Context of Innovation: The Case of IBM's Negotiation of its European Works Council

in International Negotiation
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Abstract

Uncertainty is one of the natural consequences of innovation. Regardless of the particular area, innovation leads to unknown situations ranging from the creation of high-tech new products to profound modification of economic and social structures. This uncertainty creates difficulties for negotiation processes because it becomes almost impossible to anticipate all the consequences of any agreement. Consequently, innovation tremendously enhances the uncertainty of a negotiator with regard to his own interests. Uncertainty about the opponent's interests and behavior is of course another major concern and has been dealt with extensively by many authors. This paper deals with the very different concept of uncertainty regarding one's own interests. It analyzes the impact of this form of uncertainty in the negotiation process, examining the 1997–1999 negotiations at IBM over the implementation of a European Works Council. We show that when a negotiator is uncertain about his own interests, he is less inclined to consider positions located in his uncertainty zone. This occurs as soon as he discoevers an acceptable outcome outside of this zone, even when the agreement is little differentthan the status quo. The negotiator will persist in such a strategy even though alternative agreements located in the uncertainty zone could be more advantageous for one or even both parties. In order to enlarge the zone of potential agreements between parties, a negotiator should undertake one further step: exploration of his own uncertainty zone. We demonstrate that the adoption of such a strategy, is innovative in and of itself, requiring a pro-active and creative attitude on the part of negotiators in order to discover appropriate uncertainty reduction mechanisms.

How to Reduce Uncertainty in a Context of Innovation: The Case of IBM's Negotiation of its European Works Council

in International Negotiation

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