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Klaus Striebich, Managing Director of RaRe Advise. Credit: ECE

Cooperation or Confrontation

How can the various issues and problems that exist in retail and the real estate industry be solved in this day and age?

Commentary by Klaus Striebich regarding the first “ACROSS Retail Talks”

Everyone involved in our retail and economic system is aware of the fact that the number of challenges we face is unlikely to decrease, and that we will have to deal with more and more contacts and business partners. Complexity, in every area, is constantly on the rise. Everyone always seems to be the next one in line, i.e., people hope to gain advantages in the context of negotiations or finding solutions, usually to the direct disadvantage of their counterparts. Short-term benefits, either as a result of ignorance or a lack of perceptiveness on the part of the opponent, lies at the forefront of many negotiators’ minds – much more than the development of long-term, joint solutions.

Confrontations dominate daily negotiation processes, which is something that each individual experiences every day. Many “users of confrontation” are not aware that, although it shares the first two letters with the word “cooperation”, confrontation incorporates an entirely different concept. Rooted in Latin, the original meaning of “con-frontation” is “sharing frontiers”, “being adjacent”, which creates the image of the gentle clinking of two champaign glasses, rather than the clashing of two boxing gloves.

Cooperation, in contrast, is defined as the strategic union of different individuals or institutions attempting to achieve or at least facilitate the achievement of a common goal. A very good and understandable example can be found in “farmers fable”, a story developed using game theory, which can be viewed at

Why does cooperation rarely work?

The times in which we currently live are extremely intense and challenging. One discussion or another may be too short, and essential parts of the exchange may be left out.The expectations of each of the different discussion partners may be articulated, but not understood, or they may be presented in a misleading way, thereby resulting in the emergence of a different opinion.In the midst of such intensive periods of time, economic ethics, the conduct of the honorable merchant, as it has been known for centuries, are unlikely to be in the foreground. The perpetual ups and downs of our economy and the rapidly changing framework conditions create advantages and a perceived position of strength today, which can, however, quickly become quite the opposite a short time later. We live in a time of “retaliation”, with ever more strongly attuned tendencies.

The Solution to the Dilemma 

During the first “ACROSS Retail Talks” in Vienna, the participants developed a very useful list of quasi-cooperative tools to facilitate cooperative rather than confrontational work: The open exchange of information and data will result in better situational transparency and, inevitably, to a better understanding of the tasks at hand. Professional behavior, coupled with sustainable and forward-looking planning of common goals, will lead to long-term customer satisfaction for all concerned parties – and that is the single most important factor for success. How do you see this?