The Program on Negotiation Mourns the Loss of Co-Founder Roger Fisher

By on / Negotiation Skills

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.


Related Article: Roger Fisher Papers Open at Harvard Law School Library

Related Video: Excerpt from The Founders of PON

15 Responses to “The Program on Negotiation Mourns the Loss of Co-Founder Roger Fisher”

  1. Richard Dixon /

    As a professional who has been involved in dispute resolution for over 30 years, the most important learning experience I have ever had was my week with Roger in 1989. There are very few weeks that go by that I don't apply something that he taught me. I treasure my autographed copy of Getting to Yes and keep an electronic copy with me on my Ipad. An yes he tried to change the world in many significant ways, but he also taught alot of us to make change as well. An outstanding testiment to an outstanding man. Reply

  2. Jim Winkelmann /

    Like most people I was first introduced to Roger’s work through Getting To Yes. Later I was fortunate enough to attend the PON seminar in 2004 and regularly revisit my notes. There is not a day that goes by that I do not apply the ideas and principles from PON. Along the way I discovered that while these tactics worked well in my professional settings the real value wass when I learned to use them at home with my wife and children. I think it even made my relationship with my dog better! My life is better because of what Roger was able to identify and share with me and others. Thank you Roger! You may be gone but your lessons will be handed down through the generations. Reply

  3. Rodney Romano /

    Few people have such a broad impact on the world as Mr. Fisher's. His teachings allowed people to see the art of negotiation from an entirely new and more productive perspective. May he rest in peace, and may his family find comfort in this time of sorrow. Reply

  4. John Rush /

    Sad news about Roger Fisher. I still remember the day I purchased and read "Getting to Yes." His book changed my perspective on the skill of negotiating. My thoughts to his family. Reply

  5. Jacob Taiwo /

    My deepest sympathy on the loss of Roger Fisher. Co-founder of the PON and the Harvard Negotiation Project. My condolences to his immediate family and everyone at the PON and Harvard Law School. May his soul rest in perfect peace. Reply

  6. Michael Toebe /

    This was interesting to have all these men together, discussing the genesis of the program and their viewpoints coming into it. Even today, this theory on negotiation developed at PON is a new concept to so many. The opportunity to share it is immense as is the responsibility to do such. Reply

  7. Vaseem Khan /

    Roger's negotiation concepts are fundamental and timeless. They will stay me throughout my life. My condolence to his family and friends. Reply

  8. emmy Irobi /

    The world has lost a great Mind, Scholar and a Peacemaker. May his Soul Rest in peace. Reply

  9. Clayton Burry /

    So sorry to hear of Roger's passing. Having only been introduced to him in the last few months leading up to my first course at PON, I felt like I knew him from the video course material, alone. Steady, focussed and surgical, his understanding and execution of negotiation techniques was indeed remarkable. Be it some consolation to his family at home and at Harvard, that he had such a positive influence on so many people and lived such a rewarding life. All the best from Newfoundland... Reply

  10. Jeanne Machado /

    I feel very lucky to have atended the Negatiation Workshop in 1996 conducted by Roger Fisher. I was impressed and inspired by his intelectual vitality and his passion for dialogue among people. I am sure his contribution for a better understanding of a peaceful environment will last forever. Jeanne Machado, from Brazil Reply

  11. Susan Israel /

    The recent passing of Roger Fisher is a great loss. That said, his work and the ground-breaking gem, Getting to Yes, will stand as a lasting legacy to inspire further work in dispute resolution around the world. Condolences to Professor Fisher's family and friends from Sydney Australia and indeed, people of good will around the world. Reply

  12. Angela Singh-Kerr Oakville ON /

    I came upon "Getting to Yes" many years ago,and was reintroduced to PON once again at Seneca College, Accelerated Paralegal Program '12. Amazing-Such a simple workable concept can achieve great positive results. A must read for everyone of all ages! Roger Fisher, a great legendary Peacemaker. Condolences to his family. May he Rest in Peace. Reply

  13. Patrick /

    Just read of the passing of Professor Fisher. Certainly for me, the PON is something that enriches both my personal and professional life. I will always keep the Professor in my thoughts when I have the opportunity to Mediate disputes. Reply

  14. Wenshan Jia /

    Dr. Roger Fisher had a big impact on my international business training, consulting and education. I personally visited Harvard Negotiation Program while I was a UMASS Ph. D. Fellow at Harvard-Yenching Institute during 1996-1998 and have been following the research ever since Reply

  15. Mei Birdsong /

    Thanks for finally writing about >Roger Fisher <Liked it! Reply

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