Business Lessons from United Nations

The United Nations (UN) was established on 24th October 1945 after World War II in order to prevent another such conflict. At its founding the UN had 51 member states and has since grown to 193. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict.

The United Nations has been successful in meeting the majority of its objectives over the last 70 years in a dynamic, changing and hostile environment. Many businesses are now facing change, threats and opposition and can learn from the United Nations and are able to apply principles that have been successfully used by them in negotiation, conflict resolution, consultation and communication processes.

Three lessons from the United Nations that can be adapted and applied to business include:

  • Conflicts should be avoided. History shows no one really wins a war, and so too with businesses in conflict with competitors, Governments, the community, or customers. Gunns Ltd’s quest to build the Tamar Valley pulp mill plant in Tasmania was a war with the local community (who opposed it) and the ten year battle destroyed the company.
  • In exceptional and rare circumstances conflict may be necessary. The UN sanctioned the military invasion of Iraq in 1991 to prevent the loss of further Kuwaiti lives. So too, businesses may need to take action (legal) to protect their intellectual property or assets.
  • Communication and respect are important. Most disputes can be negotiated and resolved if honest, respectful and positive communication occurs. No-one wins legal disputes except the lawyers.

It is inevitable that conflicts, disputes and misunderstandings occur. The important thing is how they are managed and resolved so all parties benefit.