The development of alternatives provides key strengths in negotiation to deliver more valuable outcomes. It is important to note that when we discuss alternatives, the topic of alternatives usually falls within the following two domains:
• Developing a range of alternatives that will allow us to generate many options to meet our interests or solve our problems
• Development of a Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)
Lewicki, Minton & Saunders (1997) describe the benefits of generating a number of alternative solutions as the ‘creative phase’ of integrative negotiations, facilitating group problem solving and mutual gains value creation. The development of a range of alternatives provides the foundation to generate more ways of solving a problem or creating a more innovative and valuable deals. Our subsequent post on ‘Generating Options’ will cover the need and benefits of developing alternatives before and during our negotiations – developing alternatives allows you to develop a range of possible solutions and not limiting your outcome by becoming fixed and bargaining over one possible option or solution.
If you enter into negotiations without pre-determined alternatives or at least one Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA), you may become more dependent or prone to accepting an agreed outcome that may be unsatisfactory or not in your best interests.
Power of least dependence: Your negotiation power increases along with the strength of your alternatives – by developing alternatives as you become less dependent upon the other party (BATNA) or a particular option of outcome. The key to creating value is to strengthen your BATNA as well as developing a wide range of alternatives or options.
Lewicki, Minton and Saunders recommend that we should attempt to reframe the problem as a method of creating ‘win/win’ alternatives. Amongst the benefits of generating a wider range of alternatives and options is the capacity to ‘build the pie’ (increase the overall deal value) and identify potential post deal ‘deals’.
Your BATNA will provide the benchmark on which to you can measure the success of your negotiation and negotiated outcome.