Boston, Estados Unidos. Roger Fisher ’48, a pioneer in the field of international law and negotiation and the co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project, died on August 25, 2012. A professor at Harvard Law School for more than four decades, Fisher established negotiation and conflict resolution as a single field deserving academic study and devoted his career to challenging students and colleagues alike to explore alternative methods of dispute resolution.
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said: “Harvard Law School has been profoundly privileged to count Roger Fisher as a treasured colleague, teacher, and leader; the countless problems he solved, lives he changed, and negotiations he led or inspired are an awe-inspiring legacy.”
Through analysis and writing, Fisher’s work laid the foundation on which much of the field of negotiation and conflict resolution has been based. His best-selling book, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In” (co-authored with William Ury in 1981), has been translated into 23 languages and has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Prior to the publication of “Getting to Yes,” there were almost no regular courses in negotiation taught at academic institutions. Now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of courses devoted to negotiation.
“Through his writings and teaching, Roger Fisher's seminal contributions literally changed the way millions of people around the world approach negotiation and dispute resolution,” said HLS Professor Robert Mnookin ‘68, chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and director of the Harvard Negotiation Research Project. “He taught that conflict is not simply a‘zero-sum’game in which a fixed pie is simply divided through haggling or threats. Instead, he showed how by exploring underlying interests and being imaginative, parties could often expand the pie and create value.”
In 1979, Fisher co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project with Ury and Bruce Patton ’84, serving as the director. HNP’s mission is “to improve the theory and practice of conflict resolution and negotiation by working on real world conflict intervention, theory building, education and training, and writing and disseminating new ideas.”
Patton, who co-wrote the 1991 edition of “Getting to Yes”and is a Distinguished Fellow of the Harvard Negotiation Project, said Fisher’s legacy was much broader than his work on negotiation. “Roger sought to build a systematic toolbox for analyzing and diagnosing the causes of any disliked situation and finding practical, effective ways to move it toward a preferred state. Like a hard scientist, Roger believed that one could not build such tools (or teach them effectively) without being able to test and refine them in the crucible of practice.”
According to Patton, Fisher’s efforts contributed directly and materially to multiple steps toward peace in the Middle East, including Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem, and the Camp David summit that led to an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty; peace in Central America and especially in El Salvador; the resolution of the longest-running war in the western hemisphere between Ecuador and Peru; the breakthrough that enabled resolution of the Iranian hostage conflict in 1980; a fundamental reshaping of the U.S.-Soviet relationship; and the negotiations and constitutional process that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Fisher is also recognized as the intellectual father of the “West Point Negotiation Project,” which has trained Army officers and cadets to recognize conflicts and apply the tools of principled negotiation in both peace and war.
Ury, a mediator for more than 30 years, said Fisher had a tremendous influence on students and colleagues. Ury said his own future was shaped by a seminal phone call from Fisher in 1977. As a graduate student in social anthropology, Ury received a call from Fisher praising Ury on his research paper, which proposed an anthropological study of the Middle East peace negotiations. Fisher told Ury that he like his paper so much he sent it to the assistant secretary of State for the Middle East, and wanted Ury to work with him.
“I was stunned. Never had I expected a professor to call me up, let alone invite me to collaborate, or see one of my ideas offered up for practical application,” said Ury. “Roger introduced me to the field of negotiation, taught and mentored me, and shaped my career more than anyone. It would be impossible for me to imagine my work without the inspiration and influence of Roger Fisher."
"Robert C. Bordone ’97, the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and the director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program, said: “Roger was a master at the art of perspective-taking, of understanding how deep human needs—to be heard, valued, respected, autonomous and safe—when unmet or trampled upon, become seeds of evil and violence, seeds that can cause us to vilify each other, and that motivate us to see the world in stark black-and-white terms. For Roger, the purpose of perspective-taking was never to excuse or justify evil. Rather, it was a way to discover new approaches to diplomacy, to influence and to understanding.”
Daniel L. Shapiro, director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program and associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, described Fisher as "my colleague, mentor and close friend." Shapiro said he and Fisher spent hours together conspiring about new ideas to help improve the way people deal with conflict. Their collaboration produced "Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate." Published in 2005, it was the last book Fisher wrote. Shapiro said: "It is telling that this is what he was drawn to write about in his later years of life. Our book is about emotions, about how to help people connect with one another – to find the humanity in even an unsavory adversary. Roger was, at heart, a humanist. He believed in the spirit of the human being to do good in this world, and he had this magical ability to convert the complexity of human behavior into simple principles that anyone could apply to improve the way they deal with virtually anyone."
During World War II, Fisher served in the U.S. Army Air Force in the North Atlantic and Pacific theatres as a weather reconnaissance observer. After discovering that his college roommate and two of his best friends were killed in the war, he dedicated most of his life to finding a better way to deal with the kind of difference that produce war.
Fifty years after his graduation from Harvard College in 1943, Fisher wrote for his Class Report: "Since our freshman year, beginning in the fall of 1939 with World War II, the primary focus of my interest has been how the world copes with its conflicting values, perceptions, wants and needs. After losing my roommate and some of my best friends in war, I knew we had to find a better way for people to deal with their differences."
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1948, Fisher passed up a clerkship for chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Learned Hand to move to Paris where he worked on the Marshall Plan under W. Averell Harriman until 1949.
After returning to the United States, Fisher worked for the Washington D.C. law firm Covington & Burling from 1950 to 1956, with most of his work dealing with international issues. From 1956 to 1958, he served as an assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. In 1957, Fisher argued for the United States in Roth v. United States, a landmark obscenity case, and won.
Fisher joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1958 and became a full professor of law in 1960. In 1976, he became the Samuel Williston Professor of Law. In 1992, he was named a professor emeritus. He also taught at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the London School of Economics, the Naval War College, Air War College and the NATO Defense College.
During the 1960s, he served as a consultant to John McNaughton, assistant U.S. secretary of defense for International Security Affairs. Some of his suggestions for ways to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam are documented in “The Pentagon Papers.” Fisher went on to publish a critique of U.S. policy failures in Vietnam in his 1969 book “International Conflict for Beginners.”
A strong advocate for using the medium of television as a means to disseminate both legal issues and current events to a broader audience, Fisher proposed the Peabody Award-winning television program “The Advocates,” in 1969. The program focused on “stimulating public participation, and understanding, by focusing on realistic choices that must be made in the future, by having both sides of the question presented, and by demonstrating the interest that public officials have in both reasoned arguments and the views of their constituents.” Fisher served as executive producer from 1969 to 1974, and then again from 1978 to1979.
In 1970, in connection with a segment of “The Advocates,” Fisher became the last westerner to interview President Nasser of Egypt and his questions elicited from Nasser an unexpected willingness to accept a cease-fire with Israel in the “war of attrition,” then raging along the Suez Canal. Fisher brought the interview to the attention of Under Secretary of State Elliot Richardson ‘47 and thus helped stimulate what became known as the Rogers Plan (named for Nixon’s Secretary of State William Pierce Rogers) that ultimately produced a ceasefire
Through the consulting firms of Conflict Management Inc. and Vantage Partners, and with the nonprofit Conflict Management Group (now part of Mercy Corps) which he co-founded, Fisher taught and advised corporate executives, labor leaders, attorneys, diplomats, and military and government officials on settlement and negotiation strategy.
This past April, Fisher was honored for his contributions to Harvard Law School and the field of negotiation with a celebration of his career at the law school. The event also marked the opening of his papers in the Harvard Law School Library’s Historical and Special Collections. The papers, spanning 60 years of Fisher’s career as a lawyer and an academic, include such diverse materials as notes related to his books, as well as his work on the television series “The Advocates.”
For 62 years, Fisher was married to Caroline McMurtrie Speer, who died in 2010. He is survived by his two sons, Elliott S. Fisher (Harvard College BA 1974, Harvard Medical School MD 1981, University of Washington MPH 1985), professor of medicine and director for population health and policy at The Dartmouth Institute; and Peter R. Fisher (Harvard College BA 1980, Harvard Law School JD 1985), who worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and as Undersecretary of the Treasury, and is now senior managing director of BlackRock. He is also survived by two brothers, John V. Fisher (Harvard College SB ’42) and Francis D. Fisher (Harvard College AB 1947, Harvard Law School JD 1951), and five grandchildren.
In 2002, at a celebration in honor of Fisher’s 80thbirthday at Harvard, the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith said of his friend and colleague: “Whenever I thought, ‘Someone should do something about this,’ it eased my conscience to learn that Roger was already working on it.”
Harvard Law School.edu.27/08/12
The Program on Negotiation Mourns the Loss of Co-Founder Roger Fisher
Boston, Estados Unidos. Roger Fisher, co-founder of the Program on Negotiation and the Harvard Negotiation Project, died on August 25 at age 90. A true pioneer and leader, he helped launch a new way of thinking about negotiation, and he worked tirelessly to help people deal productively with conflict.
“Through his writing and teaching, Roger Fisher’s seminal contributions literally changed the way millions of people around the world approach negotiation and dispute resolution,” commented Professor Robert H. Mnookin, Chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. “He taught that conflict is not simply a ‘zero-sum’ game in which a fixed pie is divided through haggling or threats. Instead, he showed how by exploring underlying interests and being imaginative, parties could often expand the pie and create value. Here at the Program on Negotiation and the Harvard Negotiation Project, both of which Roger helped launch, we, his colleagues, are committed to carrying on his work of improving the theory and practice of negotiation and dispute resolution.”
What started as a simple question, “What is the best way for people to deal with their differences?” became the first line of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, which Roger Fisher co-authored with William Ury and Bruce Patton. This landmark book, which has sold over eight million copies, has been translated into 36 languages.
The ideas in Getting to Yes were truly revolutionary. Instead of coaching a party in dispute to fight competitively, the authors showed that you could give the same advice to both sides of a conflict – have a fair process, prepare well, inquire carefully, listen to learn, separate the people from the problem, and explore options to increase value – and both sides were likely to do better than they would have otherwise.
As his colleague Bruce Patton noted, “Roger sought unabashedly to ‘change the world,’ and he did so profoundly.”
On April 8, 2012, Harvard Law School honored Roger Fisher with a celebration of his career, research, and contributions to both the HLS community and the field of negotiation. The event included the opening of Roger Fisher’s papers in the Library’s Historical and Special Collections.
A video discussion of the beginnings of the Program on Negotiation, which they launched, included Roger Fisher and several colleagues. A band of negotiation scholars who helped found a field, they have remained collaborators for over 25 years. This video clip is an excerpt from a longer video, “A Conversation with the Founders: Reflections on the Program on Negotiation’s Beginnings”. For information on this and other materials relating to Roger Fisher, visit the PON website.
Susan Hackley. Program on Negotation.Harvard.edu. 27/08/12
The Founders of PON (Excerpt)
Roger D. Fisher, Expert at ‘Getting to Yes,’ Dies at 90
Nueva York, Estados Unidos. Roger D. Fisher, a Harvard law professor who was a co-author of the 1981 best seller “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” and whose expertise in resolving conflicts led to a role in drafting the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel and in ending apartheid in South Africa, died on Saturday in Hanover, N.H. He was 90.
The cause was complications of dementia, his son Elliott said.
Over his career, Professor Fisher eagerly brought his optimistic can-do brand of problem solving to a broad array of conflicts across the globe, from the hostage crisis in Iran to the civil war in El Salvador. His emphasis was always on addressing the mutual interests of the disputing parties instead of what separated them. As he would tell his students, “Peace is not a piece of paper, but a way of dealing with conflict when it arises.”
It did not matter to Professor Fisher whether the warring parties reached out to him or not; he would assume they needed his help. “Most of the time he was not invited. He would invite himself,” Elliott Fisher said. “Our sense growing up was that he would read the newspaper and think, ‘Oh, shoot, there is something to fix."
For example, when a rebel group took hostages at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, in 1997, his son recalled, Professor Fisher found a way to contact the president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, and gave him suggestions for how to dampen the sense of crisis, including restoration of the power and water in the embassy. This strategy won the freedom of the majority of the hostages. In the end, however, Peruvian forces stormed the embassy, killing all 14 of the rebels and rescuing all but one of the 72 remaining hostages.
Professor Fisher is credited with helping initiate the summit meeting between the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1985, convincing Reagan staff members that just meeting to brainstorm and build relations was more important than settling a specific agenda.
In 1979, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance went to Professor Fisher’s house on Martha’s Vineyard before the meeting at Camp David that would lead to a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.. Professor Fisher suggested to Mr. Vance the “single negotiating text” method that was used to bring the parties together, said Bruce M. Patton, who wrote “Getting to Yes” with Professor Fisher and worked on many diplomatic projects with him. The strategy involved having President Jimmy Carter alone be responsible for writing solutions and letting the other leaders shape the treaty through a back-and-forth critiquing process.
In 1991 in South Africa, Professor Fisher and former students led workshops with both the Afrikaner cabinet and the African National Congress negotiating committee leading into talks to end apartheid and to establish a new constitution.
His upbeat approach to some of the world’s most intractable problems led some critics to assert that he was unrealistic. But Mr. Patton said Professor Fisher recognized and relished the “complexity and irrationality” of the situations he addressed.
Although Professor Fisher mostly worked behind the scenes, he did create and moderate a series on public television called “The Advocates.” A court-style program that took on one policy issue at a time and examined it in detail from different perspectives, it ran for several years on PBS and won a Peabody Award.
“Getting to Yes,” which he wrote with Mr. Patton and William Ury, has sold millions of copies and been translated into 36 languages, and has been used by leaders in business and government. Professor Fisher also wrote other books and co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project, which teaches conflict resolution skills to students and to international parties in the midst of a dispute.
Roger Dummer Fisher was born May 28, 1922, in Winnetka, Ill. His mother, Katharine Dummer Fisher, had relatives who had ridden the law circuit with Abraham Lincoln; his father, William T. Fisher, a lawyer, was the son of Walter L. Fisher, secretary of the interior in the Taft administration.
On the eve of World War II, Professor Fisher attended Harvard University. Upon graduating he volunteered for the Army, where he served from 1942 to 1946 doing weather reconnaissance in both the North Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Four of his eight college roommates died in combat; that, as well as seeing the aftermath of battle, persuaded him to dedicate his life to helping avoid war.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1948, he served on the Marshall Plan staff and as assistant to the solicitor general in the Eisenhower administration before joining the Harvard law faculty in 1960.
In addition to his son Elliott, Professor Fisher is survived by another son, Peter; two brothers, John and Frank; and five grandchildren. His wife of 62 years, the former Caroline Speer, died two years ago.
Professor Fisher stayed active in advising diplomats until about seven years ago, when illness made him too weak. His constant advocacy was a force many of his friends found comforting.
His family recalled that when Professor Fisher celebrated his 80th birthday, his colleague John Kenneth Galbraith toasted him by saying, “Whenever I thought, ‘Someone should do something about this,’ it eased my conscience to learn that Roger was already working on it.”
A version of this article appeared in print on August 28, 2012, on page A16 of the New York edition with the headline: Roger D. Fisher, Expert at ‘Getting to Yes,’ Dies at 90.
Leslie Kaufman. New York Times.com. 27/08/12