Integrative negotiation is a strategy where the goal is a result that is as good as possible for both parties. It can also be referred to as win-win negotiation. It is an alternate strategy to the more common negotiation technique of simply trying to come up with the best possible outcome for your own side, known as distributive negotiation.
The idea of integrative negotiation is to work together to find the outcome that best helps both sides. This requires both sides to put more effort than usual into understanding what the other side requires and desires from a deal. Analysts of the tactic say it works best when the two sides concentrate primarily on the main point of the deal, rather than coming up with many secondary points which they will then “trade off” as part of the negotiating process.
Also known as a "win-win solution," integrative negotiation can be difficult, as it tends to require a considerable amount of compromise on both sides. Groups of people who are not used to working together may have to consider the negotiation to be more of a team effort, rather than a competition. Although this can be difficult at first, many people who have experience with integrative negotiation find that it can work out to be beneficial for both sides.
Traditionally, most negotiations work on a distributive basis. Distributive negotiation works on the principle that both sides will be out to get the deal which best helps them. This is often reflected in the assumptions analysts make about how a hypothetical set of negotiations will proceed and be resolved. In this situation, the two parties tend to see any gain as the other party's loss and vice versa. Integrative negotiation can take this issue off the table by looking for the best situation for all parties concerned.
Integrative negotiation should not be confused with integrative analysis. The latter is a technique used in the field of negotiation theory, which aims to explain how and why negotiations usually turn out. Most versions of negotiation theory reduce it to a simple set of factors, along the lines of those used in such hypothetical situations as the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” Integrative analysis works from the perspective that negotiation is much more complex and should be broken down into multiple stages for analysis, from the first contact between the two sides right through to a deal’s formal completion.