Habit 6. Synergize.

Here’s some of what Stephen Covey thinks:

“To put it simply, synergy means “two heads are better than one.” Synergize is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. But it doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a process, and through that process, people bring all their personal experience and expertise to the table. Together, they can produce far better results that they could individually. Synergy lets us discover jointly things we are much less likely to discover by ourselves. It is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. One plus one equals three, or six, or sixty–you name it.

When people begin to interact together genuinely, and they’re open to each other’s influence, they begin to gain new insight. The capability of inventing new approaches is increased exponentially because of differences.

Valuing differences is what really drives synergy. Do you truly value the mental, emotional, and psychological differences among people? Or do you wish everyone would just agree with you so you could all get along? Many people mistake uniformity for unity; sameness for oneness. One word–boring! Differences should be seen as strengths, not weaknesses. They add zest to life”.

So here’s a question for us…if/when Mr. Covey surveys the current climate change debates (and who could miss the coverage?), what might he think? Would he offer a suggestion or two? Along what lines?

Some hints can perhaps be found in the relevant chapters of his fuller book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Read that material and his examples and what you find is that when Covey speaks of “valuing differences,” he doesn’t seem to mean slight differences. He doesn’t mean variations in seemingly inconsequential detail. He’s not speaking of nuance.

He’s referring to irreconcilable differences.

Total divergence. Electron and positron (you bring them together, they don’t co-exist…they annihilate each other).  

So he might just collar a group of climate change debaters, spanning the entire space from “climate change is real, largely caused by human activity, and poses serious risks to humankind” all the way over to “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Theory Threatens your Future,” get everyone in a room, and make a little speech…

“You know, we all are bright people, well-educated, well-spoken, and well-off. We can keep going on our present course ad infinitum. We don’t have to take responsibility for our lives. We can keep blaming each other indefinitely for the argument and fuss we’ve constructed (together, actually) with great effort.

But is that really the end we have in mind? Is that all we want from our days on this Earth? Is that how we want the rest of the world to remember us? Or would we like to see that we’ve contributed in some way to making that world better…enabling the world’s billions to garner the resources they need for today while protecting the ecosystem services they need for tomorrow, even in the midst of successive hazards and extremes? It’s that latter, larger outcome that we’ve all said is what we really want. And we’ve said it more than once.

Well, if we want to do more we’re probably going to have to find a new set of priorities besides proving each other wrong. Fact is, we’re probably going to want to start by spending more time seeking to understand each other instead of relentlessly making our own points. And take the energy and focus and intellect we’re investing in Win-Lose, and put half that much juice into Win-Win.

And you know, if we did that…we might really come to realize we like and value and respect each other. Let’s ask ourselves…with our divergent views as the starting point, what synthesis can we identify and develop and present together to a waiting world? There’s no limit to what we can achieve…and the world’s reaction. And It wouldn’t take us any time at all…certainly wouldn’t take the two decades the debate has dragged on so far. And any points of agreement, any common ground we might find…would make the world sit up and take notice…for the first time in years. We could enlarge the conversation. Draw others in from different professions and cultures. The very tangible set of benefits that would emerge would grow.

Okay. Maybe a slight exaggeration. And possibly Mr. Covey would say nothing of the sort. [He’d probably be more creative and more penetrating in his insights.]

But he might add this…that the bigger the initial differences that separate us now, the more consequential the synergies and payoffs will be.

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