Exclusive Interview with Author Frank Zerunyan, J.D.

In an exclusive CaliforniaCityNews interview, Author Frank v. Zerunyan, J.D., answers questions about the emerging art and science of "Newgotioation." To purchase Zerunyan's new book, "Newgotiation for Public Leaders: The Art of Negotiation for a Better Outcome," click here.  

1.     Tell us about your local government background. What sparked your interest in running for City Council?

My subject matter expertise, the desire to serve my community and the personal goal to complete the term of office of my public servant ancestors who were brutally murdered during the first genocide of the 20th Century. I am a lawyer by training. Most of my practicing career focused on real estate law encompassing land use and finance specifically. I represented developers, governments and banks mainly. I was first appointed to the planning commission of my city of Rolling Hills Estates. Four years later and after becoming chair, I was asked to succeed the outgoing mayor who had served our community well over a decade. I was first elected in 2003, re-elected in 2007 and 2011. I served my community as Mayor twice and had the honor of being elected 52nd President of California Contract Cities Association in 2008 while I was Mayor for my first time. 
2.     How has the practice of negotiation been affected in what many consider to be an era of divisiveness and partisanship?

We spend 80% of our life negotiating for something. Unfortunately, traditional negotiation standards teach us a very competitive process. A process in which we create winners and losers all the time. A process in which we accept a "fixed pie" to win or lose. Take it or leave it! Not surprisingly, the literature tells us that we only succeed 30% of the time to achieve what one would call a win/win. The old negotiation process by its own nature fuels divisiveness by seeking winners and losers, which is also the recipe for partisanship in politics. This is precisely why we wrote the book to shift our ways of thinking. To promote the inquiry of a "larger pie" and to improve the opportunities to win. Two very important elements for the win/win lack in our current divisive system; relationship and trust. The system that we call Newgotiation in our book fosters trust and relationship using cognitive science. We rely and borrow from the literature of collaborative governance and facilitative leadership in public administration to frame our Newgotiation for better outcomes. Newgotiation is all about the facilitation of collaboration to enlarge the "size of the pie"and to explore the "why" by inventing and creating value before the more competitive phase of the process in value distribution. Higher levels of governments have lost track of the "why" and kept the quest for individual power as the driving force in decision making. 

3.     Do you see some of the partisanship and acrimony that afflicts Congress challenging non-partisan local government boards as well?

Yes, if we allow it! We are human and can easily fall trapped to the "power" of our office. If we distance ourselves from the "why" and stop creating relationships among our constituents who typically trust us more than any other levels of government, the devastating results will not be much different than the divisiveness or partisanship that we currently have in higher levels of governments. In Newgotiation not only we promote relationship and trust but also a common language and a unified dialect to place everyone on the same page. We ask our Newgotiators to listen with empathy so that they are able to fashion elegant solution to problems big and small. 

4.     How have traditional conceptions of negotiation failed California’s local government?

Almost every example of collective failure for our local governments have come as a result of envy, misuse of power, lack of transparency, accountability, and the acceptance of a "fixed pie." Our new paradigm in Newgotiation mirrors the paradigm in public administration  that we call collaborative governance as opposed to government. Our new paradigm replaces a system of win/lose with a win/win, a sense of control with freedom, scientism with integralism, individualism with connectionism, predictability with creativity to create value and the silo of a hierarchical system with prosperous and efficient partnerships. This is the way of the 21st century public administration and Newgotiation plays a crucial role across sectors.

5.     How has this concept of “Newgotiation” come into play as a council member of Rolling Hills Estates?

My colleagues and I serve our community with joy and recognition of the "why." We are there to serve representing 8,000 people not just some of them. Our role is one of facilitation with moral integrity and elegance. We humbly serve as public servants using the power of the people to serve people. We build relationships and hopefully through our tenure on the council and public record, trust among the people we serve. We collaborate more than compete. We show respect to each elected member of our council as a representative of the people to forge a systemic culture of solution oriented collective cognitive learning to cut a better deal for our community. This is precisely what we advocate in our book Newgotiation and in our classrooms here at USC Price and when we humbly share our knowledge around the world in United Nations networks and workshops.

6.     Can you elaborate on the 4-10-10 Newgotiation Technique? What might elected leaders, specifically at the local government level, stand to learn from this technique?

All negotiations as a process have an amazing commonality. So we created the 4-10-10 technique which allows our practitioners to apply 4 simple steps to 10 elements and evaluate implementation with 10 indicators. We created this technique to identify a process that is common to all. Our 4-10-10 technique is a unified dialect, which helps practitioners and organizations to speak the same language. Our hope is that armed with the same lexicon of ingredients everyone can be a good and thorough Newgotiator. We expect our readers and trainees to learn to deal with different types of people, create and protect a brand, build reputation of mutual respect, implement long term solutions, make fair decisions, be creative, learn to prepare, create value and manage time and data for better outcomes.

7.     You've collaborated with an international academic and as someone with an international background, how do you think these perspectives have influenced your approach to finding middle ground?

Yann is an expert in decision management and cognitive processes. However, he completed his post doctoral work in the United States at MIT/Harvard working with the best of scholars in this topic of negotiation to achieve a win/win. That being said, using our collective experiences we were able to apply his science to the art we collectively called Newgotiation for Public Leaders. This is because we used a very familiar framework in public administration and leadership literature to articulate a very important topic and practice area geared towards public leaders. We collectively made the shift from hard power, which is what I was taught in law school, to smart and cognitive power to encourage public leaders to "enlarge the pie" and make rational and collaborative decisions to serve the interests of their constituents. So we wrote this book to improve the probability for our public leaders to close a better deal, to improve the value of the deal by inventing and to improve the productivity to close a deal using a common language and by collaborating. 

8.     And lastly, where can we purchase your book? 

Our eBook is on Amazon and can be purchased at the following link and also on iTunes for iBook.