John Graham

Business professor, author, & award-winning expert on human behavior, culture, & commerce.
John Graham
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John’s most recent book is Inventive Negotiation: Getting beyond Yes (2014).

After college John spent much of the next nine years as an officer in the U.S. Navy Underwater Demolition/SEAL Teams. He has spent the last three decades promoting peace among people and nations. This latter theme is reflected in all his books and current activities.

John’s first book published in 1984 (New Japan now in its 4th edition, 2008) was meant to help Americans better understand and get along with Japanese. Next he began working with Philip Cateora on International Marketing (2013), now in its 16th edition. Trade causes peace is the fundamental theory of that book. Both China Now (2007) and Global Negotiation (2008) promote peace through international exchange. All in the Family (2nd edition, 2013) promotes peace within families and addresses the most important problem facing Americans circa 2020 – the rising decrepitude of baby boomers. John has worked with very smart co-authors on all these projects.

All this work is underpinned by over thirty years of scholarship focused on international marketing and negotiation.  John studied both Marketing and Cultural Anthropology in his doctoral program at UC Berkeley. He has worked with colleagues in twenty-four countries, briefly sharing stages with Mikhail Gorbachev and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. John was a tenured professor at USC and is currently Professor Emeritus at the Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine. He was also a director of the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding (2000-08). Aside from his more technical work, he has published articles in the Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Christian Science Monitor.

Articles focusing on John’s books and research have appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Investors' Daily, BusinessWeek, Reuters, Parade Magazine, the AARP Bulletin, and on ABC Good Morning America. Numerous interviews have been aired on broadcast media (local, national, and foreign) including the BBC, NBC Nightly News, and Fox News. John has spoken to business groups at more than 100 companies and institutes around the world including in 15 foreign countries.

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Speaker Video

International and Global Negotiation, Nonverbal Behaviors

WHAT ECONOMISTS CAN’T TELL YOU ABOUT THE NEXT 20 YEARS. We are in the midst of the greatest crisis of our age. The single biggest problem facing Americans in the next twenty years is lurking right in our homes. It’s not foreign wars or even terrorism. It’s not economic, although many have defined it that way. It’s not drugs, diets, or droughts. No, it’s the changing roles of 75 million Americans. The biggest problem facing Americans circa 2014 is the retirement and evolving decrepitude of the baby-boom generation.

John speaks about the ideas and the entertaining and sometimes poignant examples from his recent book, All in the Family, concisely reviewed at

“If you're an empty-nester who sometimes feels that you rattle around in your big house, or if your knees complain when you go up and down the stairs and steps of your home, you may have the vague feeling that there is something basically wrong with the way Americans are being housed. After you read All in the Family: A Practical Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living, you'll be sure of it. And you may be convinced that the way for us to make progress in the area of housing is to move backward, to the multigenerational households that were fairly standard until after World War II.

This book is a rich resource for anyone who is considering multigenerational living. If you are not considering it, read this book, and you are likely to start thinking about it. Multigenerational living makes sense for at least three reasons: it can simplify elder care, it can help with child care and it can cut housing costs. Clearly, it can be a smart housing choice for grandparents. The authors of the book plainly believe that there are other, less-quantifiable benefits, but they make a good case for families living together even if the issue of family closeness is ignored.

Many Americans do not realize that single-family dwellings are a relatively new phenomenon in the Western world. The Industrial Revolution drove workers to move away from their kinship groupings to find jobs. Prior to that time, families naturally lived in multigenerational settings. The single-family housing model may have worked well for some in the intervening years, but there are forces at work today that make multigenerational living a practical and natural choice once again. Americans are living longer, usually in a state of health that doesn't require nursing home care. Younger two-career families struggle with finding and paying for good child care. And the recent recession has left many families floundering financially.

Multigenerational living can be a solution to all of these problems. But typical American homes are uniquely unsuitable for occupation by more than one family and may be especially unsuitable for the elderly. They are, as the authors say, "Peter Pan housing -- built as if no one ever ages."

All is not lost, however. Existing housing can be altered to accommodate more than one generation. Accessory apartments, sometimes called granny flats, can be added, either free-standing or attached to the home. Families that don't mind moving can consider duplexes, townhomes, family compounds and a host of other options.

This book provides guidance for all the sticky issues of living together, including the following:

  • Making a home accessible for seniors
  • Dealing with housing laws and deed restrictions
  • Deciding ownership and inheritance issues
  • Handling the cultural stigma
  • Making agreements, both formal and informal, about living together”

WHAT YOU DIDN’T LEARN IN BUSINESS OR LAW SCHOOL ABOUT NEGOTIATION. Steve Jobs used it to cut a better deal with Disney. George Mitchell and Mary Robinson used it to help end a decades-long war in Northern Ireland. And you can use it in your life and work to get better outcomes for years to come.  Inventive Negotiation is a concrete set of steps that can help build long-term relationships instead of lasting enmity. John illustrates each step with real life stories from around the world, plus the latest neuroscience and behavioral economics. He will show you how to get more than your share of the pie, giving you the tools to build a pie factory. Once you've learned the art and science of Inventive Negotiation, you'll never be satisfied with transactional or integrative bargaining again.

Your daughters are fighting – over an orange. No hitting or hair pulling, just screaming and crying. What do you do? You might get a knife and cut the thing in half. A zero-sum solution, but fair. If you’re smart you ask each of them why they want the orange. If you’re lucky one wants it for the juice, the other the peel for marmalade. They can share it with each getting 100% of their desires. Smart parent!

In business school we call the latter approach integrative or interests-based bargaining. Indeed, we often tell the parable of the orange to demonstrate the thinking behind the process. Rather than a competitive haggling over greedy positions, we’ve been teaching making interests-based tradeoffs that should yield win-win solutions. But in the 21st century, just getting to yes isn’t good enough.

There is a third way. The best negotiators in the world think business-school-taught integrative bargaining is primitive. Jobs and Iger used what we call Inventive Negotiation in devising the Disney purchase of Pixar. They developed a trusting relationship, laid their cards on the table, face up, and walked around Palo Alto trading crazy ideas. Rather than bargaining over film distribution agreements and intellectual property, they combined their imaginations to design an ecosystem of creativity. Using this approach with your daughters, you suggest planting an orange tree.

Inventive negotiation borrows the best ideas from the Japanese, the Dutch, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, brain science, anthropology, and experimental economics. Rather than focusing on disputes or problems, the process begins with a search for opportunities.  Next comes finding the best partners and developing trusting relationships. Those relationships allow for application of tools of invention – using a facilitator, leveraging diversity, getting the team, place, space and pace just right, changing roles, and improvisation. 

Prominent examples of Inventive Negotiation come from industry – Boeing/Mitsubishi, GM/Toyota, Apple/Hon Hai, Philips, and Ford. All have imitated General Electric’s founder. Thomas Edison wasn’t just an inventor. He was an inventive negotiator. Contemplate the array of companies he created – 171 in all. Fifty were in countries ranging from Argentina to Canada, from Japan, China, and India to Italy, Germany, and France. He dabbled with partners in electric cars, batteries, cement, chemicals, and office machines. The creative teams he developed laid the foundations for today’s music, movie, and telecommunications industries. Now GE makes everything from toasters to turbo-machinery.

We have found others that use Inventive Negotiation – George Mitchell brokering a peace in Northern Ireland, Marines drilling water wells in Afghanistan, Father Gregory Boyle creating Homeboy Enterprises, extended families building multigenerational housing. The list goes on and on. There is no limit to human imagination when it’s purposefully applied to finding opportunities, TOGETHER. Try Inventive Negotiation. Go beyond just yes. Plant orange trees!

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