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Habit 4: Think Win-Win (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Habit 4: Think Win-Win 

Covey met with a manager of a company who was trying to get his employees to work harder. The manager knew that he could get more out of them they if they co-operated. He created a monthly challenge, the winner of which would earn a trip to Bermuda. But Covey noted that this incentive scheme would only result in competition, not cooperation. In other words, it was not win-win.

There are several different outcomes when dealing with people, they are: win-win, win-lose, lose-win, lose-lose. Which one you should use depends on the situation. As the names suggest, win-win means that you and the other person benefit from the interaction. The sales competition with a trip to Bermuda as a reward is a win-lose situation – it is zero-sum. And if you want to foster teamwork and unity, this isn’t the optimal strategy. Lose-win is when you grant the other person victory, there are some occasions you can think about where that’s okay, like playing a game with your nephew, but generally this isn’t a good way to live life. Lose-lose is when you butt heads with someone else who is just as egoistic and stubborn as you are, and instead of making progress, both of you lose time and energy.

What Covey urges you to do in this chapter, is not to always go for win-win. It’s impossible to do that since some situations don’t allow for mutual benefit by design. There is no win-win if you are playing against someone in a competitive game. But for all other situations, win-win is always the best strategy to aim for. He gives the example of parenting. Children can be raised according to many different paradigms. If they are raised according to the win-lose paradigm, they will grow up believing that love must be earned by being better than their siblings. In other words, they will have an incentive to sabotage their siblings’ progress because they don’t want to lose the popularity contest. This breeds resentment, win-win is a much better paradigm here.

There’s a book called Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors show us a new way of thinking about opportunity in business. Usually, the mindset in business is simple: there are customers and there are competitors – my goal is to make more money from customers than my competitors do. In the book, the authors give us examples of businesses that thought of business differently. Instead of competing with businesses, they found ways of finding their own niche. Instead of competing for customers, they looked for customers that didn’t already belong to competitors. For example, the wine market may be oversaturated with buyers who are middle age, but very few young people. Instead of trying to compete for the middle-aged customers, the business would market their product to a younger audience – thus profiting from their niche without eating away at their competition.

This may not be quite win-win, but it is avoiding the zero-sum mentality that is usually prevalent in business. Whether you are dealing with people or with businesses, going win-win is always more challenging. You need more skills and more creativity to successfully adopt this mindset. But Covey’s point is that if you do, for the maximum number of situations, you will avoid breeding resentment among other people. You will experience more success more easily. 

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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