Bio

About

Steve Weiss is an associate professor of policy and international business at the Schulich School of Business, York University, in Toronto, Canada. A specialist in international negotiation, he has devoted over 40 years to research, teaching, and consulting in this and related fields. At Schulich, he created the first course on international business negotiation.

He is interested in international negotiation as a whole – in all its complexity. So he favors a broad perspective and comprehensive approaches to its study and practice. He has explored the influence of societal systems on negotiation processes, the nuances in negotiators’ verbal expressions, and many other aspects of negotiation between those levels of analysis. This scope is evident in much of his writing and teaching.

Steve’s work bridges research and practice. He is a strong advocate of dialogue between practitioners and scholars/students. In all of this work, he aims to assist individuals, groups, and organizations to develop their negotiation skills so they can engage in more productive interactions and relationships across countries and cultures.


Short bio for academic audiences (words=99)
Steve Weiss is a tenured associate professor of policy and international business at the Schulich School of Business (Toronto) who specializes in international negotiation. Originally trained in international relations and conflict analysis (Ph.D., Univ. of Pennsylvania), he has concentrated on international business negotiations and its development as a field. His research interests span multiple levels of analysis and extend from macro-views of inter-organizational relationships to the behavior of individual negotiators. As an instructor who has won both school and university-wide awards for graduate teaching, Professor Weiss offers courses on negotiation, international business, managing across cultures, and strategy field studies.

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Short bio for business audiences (words=93)
Steve Weiss is a specialist in international negotiation at the Schulich School of Business (York University), where he holds a tenured appointment. He is the author of several influential works in his field, including “Negotiating with Romans.” As a teacher, he created the popular course “international business negotiation” at Schulich and has won both school and university-wide teaching awards. In professional circles off campus, Weiss has delivered a variety of negotiation training programs for diverse clients such as American Express Canada, Citigroup India, the European Patent Office and the Southern African Development Community.

Click here for one-page bio/info for business audiences


STORIES BEHIND THE STORY

How did this interest start?
Andre Agassi’s father put a tennis ball in his crib; my parents took me to Japan. I spent 10 of my first 11 years there, but unlike Agassi, who has said he “hated” tennis, I loved life in Japan. I learned a lot (too much to mention here), but above all, I think those early experiences fostered in me a deep interest in people, cultures, and countries. I returned to the US with my family just before the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics and after several years of education on the east coast, headed overseas again, this time to Europe, for a year in French families and schools. When I entered college back in the US, the appropriate course of study for me seemed obvious: international affairs. The program consisted of an assortment of courses in history, government, economics and a foreign language. Halfway through, however, I lacked a central motivation or coordinating theme. I found one, serendipitously, in a course on war and peace in the Religion Department. It was a timely subject, for this was the era of the Vietnam War, Cold War (and strategic arms limitation talks), and Yom Kippur War. The religion course sparked my academic interest in conflict and conflict resolution. That interest—a fascination, really—was reinforced by a second experience. It began one afternoon at the college library in Pennsylvania when I happened upon a brochure about the Summer School in Peace Research (University of Waterloo) in Ontario, Canada. The school offered intensive seminars with extraordinary visiting scholars. I went. That experience provided a focal point for my interest in international relations and introduced me to an entire literature on conflict and conflict resolution.

Training: A Unique Set of Influences
How does someone prepare for a career in conflict and conflict resolution—or more specifically, international negotiation? This is a question that my students have often asked. When I faced it as a college graduate, I considered going on to schools of diplomacy, international relations or law. Then I heard about the Ph.D. program in Peace Science (later Conflict Analysis and Peace Research) at the University of Pennsylvania. (It was the first program of its kind in the US and probably, the world.) I applied and got in. All of the students took philosophy of science, quantitative methods, and strategic analysis (game theory) but then we were able to pursue individualized programs of study. (By this point, we had learned that the modern study of conflict and conflict resolution had not begun in the 1970s but back at least as far as the 1930s, between two world wars.) As I narrowed my own interest to international negotiation, I drew on Penn’s strengths in several other fields: political science, history, sociolinguistics, and communication. My work in these fields came together in my doctoral dissertation, which was titled “The Language of Successful Negotiators.”

What I learned about conflict resolution and negotiation was not limited to the Penn campus, however. I was taught and advised by a number of practitioners off-campus. There were so many organizations involved in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Philadelphia at this time that people called it a “mecca” for ADR. I explored it fully and gratefully. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service had a busy regional office, and several mediators allowed me, with the parties’ permission, to observe their labor-management negotiations. The American Arbitration Association also had a regional office in Philadelphia, and their officers and panelists let me watch labor arbitration hearings. Later, I was appointed to hear some cases and made awards of my own in the steel industry. Elsewhere in the city, the Society of Friends (Quakers) offered a well-developed training program in mediation, which I took. I met regularly with a mediator at the Community Relations Service, a unit of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for providing assistance in community disputes with racial or ethnic dimensions. To mention just two more examples, I sat in on a negotiation course run by Nierenberg’s Negotiation Institute and actively participated in the nascent Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution. In sum, these experiences were mutually reinforcing and added up to a wonderfully rich base for negotiation teaching and research.

Working as an Educator (in International Negotiation)
Like many graduate students, I started teaching during my doctoral program. I enjoyed it from the very beginning: the intellectual adventure, social interaction, and opportunity to contribute to others' growth. I liked delving into a subject, exploring different facets and angles, and creating plans for different presentations and activities, and I relished the immediacy and spontaneity of a class. Not everything could be prearranged. (That was not always a pleasant thought, I admit.) On the whole, I saw class as an exciting, joint effort by students and teacher to develop a body of shared knowledge, experience, and understanding.

The first course I taught on negotiation was called “Freshman Seminar on Conflict Regulation,” in the spring of 1980 at Penn. The book Getting to Yes had not yet arrived on the scene (it would later be equated to the Big Bang), but there was ample material to use from the 1960s (e.g., How Nations Negotiate) and 1970s (The 50% Solution). In early 1983, through a practitioner contact, I was invited to join the teaching team for the international negotiation course at New York University’s graduate school of business. That was my entrée to teaching business negotiation.

(The timing was just right. In the early 1980s, business and law schools collectively acknowledged the importance of negotiation skills and began offering negotiation courses. Students responded enthusiastically, and demand for the courses skyrocketed.)

New York University’s International Business (IB) Department was a great place to start. The department had played a leading role in the development of IB as a field, so resources for IB were readily available. More pointedly, a few faculty members had chosen to focus on IB negotiation. The first scholarly book on the subject that I know of (International Business Negotiations) was published by NYU Press in 1970. In 1975, two professors established an entire course on IB negotiation. This was the course that I assisted in early 1983 and then co-delivered after I joined the full-time faculty later that year.

Ever since then, I have concentrated on IB negotiation teaching and research, though I remain keenly interested in diplomatic, cross-cultural and other negotiations.

What distinguishes my negotiation teaching from other approaches is my use of “mega-simulations.” These interactive exercises center on a large project or deal involving 12 people, working in teams, who plan for 3 weeks, negotiate face-to-face for 2 days, and participate in 1 week of debriefings. Participants say the mega-simulations “feel real.” They have an emotional intensity and richness of context not attained in common role-plays. (My students do those, too.) The mega-simulations challenge participants with a broad range of tasks that require the integration and application of various kinds of knowledge and skills. (For more details, see the tabs on this website for Teaching–Materials and Publications–Recent Articles.)

Mega-simulations have been among my most satisfying experiences as a teacher. (I have completed nearly 150 of these month-long exercises.) They have allowed me to become well-acquainted with students: to see the full scope of their personalities, skills and capabilities, and to observe their progress and increasing confidence. In addition, these exercises have fostered strong relationships among students and a class-wide sense of community that endure beyond the last day of class.

And yet, I prefer the role of an educator to that of a teacher. Webster’s Dictionary does not differentiate the two inasmuch as it defines an educator as “one who is skilled at teaching.” But in my view, an educator is devoted to learning (“the process of gaining knowledge, understanding, or skill”) as a participant and as a guide. It is an ongoing commitment. Moreover, instead of focusing on a particular subject or method as teaching does, education connotes the development of the mind. One could even say, “development of the person.” This is an important responsibility, privilege, and matter of trust.

Over the years, I have gladly accepted opportunities to work with people in new or different arenas or contexts. I aim to serve individuals and organizations off campus as well as on campus. Putting myself in different situations has enabled me to continue to learn and to expand my capabilities. Each experience has benefited from the last one and generated ideas for the next. I continue to move back and forth between research and practice, and teaching and research, and encourage others also to take these travels. Business executives come to my negotiation courses regularly to negotiate with the students. My teaching in both North America and Europe for the last 10 years, at Schulich and HEC, has also involved bridge-building and has sharpened my skills.

Working on international negotiation has yet to get old or dull for me. So much can happen in negotiation; after all, each set of parties chooses for themselves how to proceed and define their relationship. In an international arena, this undertaking is multi-faceted and complex—and thus intriguing. How do the pieces fit; how does the whole process work? Why do negotiators reach certain outcomes? What could they do to achieve better results? These core questions have fueled my research and writing, and I have been able to ask them again and again because of the varieties of IB negotiation. Just think of the instances of negotiation that result from the many combinations of different business transactions, industries, and countries and companies on the planet. Today there are some answers to the core questions and more powerful concepts and tools for IB negotiation than there were 40 years ago, but the field is still young.

In summary, my profile as an educator (in negotiation) might best be represented by four attributes. The first is a wholehearted commitment to the mission of an educator. There is, in my view, nothing more consequential or worthwhile than human development, on an individual or societal scale. The second is an approach to learning that is enthusiastic, inventive and participative. I am an able and experienced facilitator. The third attribute is my adherence to high standards for work quality and drive for continuous improvement. Fourth and finally, I would list a passion for developing negotiation skills that is rooted in the conviction that negotiation is an essential human capability and commendable basis for relationships. Not everyone can be a Dag Hammarskjold, Richard Holbrooke, Carlos Slim or Mother Teresa, but I do believe most of us can improve our understanding of negotiation and our ability to negotiate. Helping individuals and groups who embark upon that endeavor has been and will continue to be at the heart of my work as an educator.

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Press

Title Publication Link
“Esteemed business professor visits Hun” Cuccagna, Rich. NJ.com, October 7 2015. View Article
“North American, With a Difference” Smith, Elaine. The New York Times, May 27 2013.
"Negotiation: What an Argos linebacker learned through a panda exercise” O’Kane, Josh. The Globe and Mail (Canada), May 15 2013. View Article
“MBA students find giant pandas on the curriculum” Bradshaw, Della. Financial Times (London), April 19 2013. View Article