Think Win-Win…the postscript

John Plodinec provided an excellent comment to Saturday’s post on Win-Win. The third of his three points was particularly telling. He said “As far as the science of global warming is concerned, I want neither a win-win nor win-lose. I want the best science to win, NO MATTER WHO IS RIGHT. As far as public policy, I personally don’t want any that are aimed only at curbing CO2 until the science is more settled. However, that doesn’t preclude policies that can be justified on the basis of national security, or economic growth or some other basis (for example, incentivizing energy efficiency).”

John is saying he doesn’t care whether the convinced or the unconvinced in the climate change argument prove closer to the truth…he just wants the best science to win out in the end. And when it comes to policies, he wants those that offer not just imagined but real (and preferably multiple) societal benefits.

This illustrates a more general point.

None of Covey’s seven habits is an end in itself, is it? Each is a means to some broader end.

When Covey invites us to be proactive…that’s defined in terms of some end, which you and I get to decide. When he says begin with the end in mind, that end is again something you and I determine. It may be founding Apple Computer or Amazon.com. It may mean being the best parent and spouse ever. It might mean a powerful ministry. It might be writing a book. When Covey urges us to put first things first, and think Win-Win, it’s because he sees these as the most effective ways to reach our prospective goals.

The end here, for this blog, is to improve the odds that seven billion people will live effectively on the planet that is the ultimate source of our water, food, and energy, a planet that is at one and the same time a resource, a victim, and a threat… and, because there’s much room for improvement, and because we’re unthinkingly foreclosing future options by stumbling along…help us quickly get better at this task.

Win-Win, then, in the case of climate science, is not just an end in itself…and most certainly not a competitive alternative to good science, or workable policy. What Covey suggests instead is that the most effective path to good science (or decisions and actions based on that science) is likely through Win-Win, because science, and research, though practiced by individuals, is inherently a cooperative venture. When Newton said, “we stand on the shoulders of giants…” (this expression apparently didn’t originate with him; you can find more background here), he didn’t mean competitors so much as the scientists who’d laid the foundation for his own work. And so it continues to this day. Concerted effort is the key and Win-Win makes collaboration sustainable.

Win-Win is not an alternative to realism. Win-Win is a faster way to get there.

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