You won’t find Harvard Law School negotiation best sellers “Getting to Yes” or “Difficult Conversations” in the spirituality, poetry or philosophy sections of your local bookstore. But according to Erica Fox ’95, that’s where we might look for additional insight on solving conflict.
Last spring, Fox started the Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative at HLS’s Program on Negotiation to explore “what mindfulness and the great wisdom traditions have to teach us in the negotiation and dispute resolution field.”
Negotiation and conflict management are already interdisciplinary, says Fox, drawing on fields including law, economics, business, psychology and international relations. But it’s time, she said, to bring “the philosophers and sages and poets and mystics into the conversation.” Negotiators in areas from business to international affairs can draw on centuries of thought about how to act wisely and justly.
Overseen by HLS Professor Frank Sander ’52 and Harvard Business School Professor Michael Wheeler LL.M. ‘ 74, the initiative has launched a leadership forum, bringing negotiation and dispute resolution experts together with philosophers, meditation teachers and religious scholars. Other events are open to the public, including a dialogue series, a working group and a weeklong workshop in June on mindfulness for mediators.
Fox, a faculty associate at the Program on Negotiation, sees the initiative as a natural extension of developments in the field, many of which were pioneered by members of the program: “We’ve talked about win-win solutions, we’ve talked about core communication and now we’re adding on to that by going one layer deeper.”
The initiative comes, she said, at a time when people are hungry for new models and new frameworks for decision-making: “People have been negotiating based on their rights and based on their interests. Increasingly, they want to ask not only, ‘Do I have the right to do this?’ but also ‘Is this the right thing to do?'”