Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#21  Postby TMB » Apr 20, 2010 1:15 pm

locutus7 wrote:Covey is big-time LDS, if I recall. A mormon senior. Not that his religion is an influence on his books (or is it?)


I would say that it must be difficult, if not impossible, to separate someones religion and behavioral convictions. LDS are strongly motivated missionaries and have the courage of their convictions - meaning they dont acept ideas that are counter to their own. The 7 habits is certainly prescriptive and is presented as certain and the correct way to do things. I would say its quite consistent with his LDS stance.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#22  Postby locutus7 » Apr 20, 2010 1:24 pm

TMB wrote:
locutus7 wrote:Covey is big-time LDS, if I recall. A mormon senior. Not that his religion is an influence on his books (or is it?)


I would say that it must be difficult, if not impossible, to separate someones religion and behavioral convictions. LDS are strongly motivated missionaries and have the courage of their convictions - meaning they dont acept ideas that are counter to their own. The 7 habits is certainly prescriptive and is presented as certain and the correct way to do things. I would say its quite consistent with his LDS stance.


Perhaps it is merely coincidence, but a number of best selling authors are mormons who readily admit to reflecting their beliefs in their books. Stephanie Meyers (Twilight), the guy (forgot his name) who wrote Enders Game are just 2 who come to mind. Wildly popular books.

I speculate that these books don't influence readers toward LDS but rather resonate with readers' existing beliefs. And most people can enjoy their books without even noticing any LDS doctrine or message.

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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#23  Postby DanDare » Apr 20, 2010 3:33 pm

I think the presentation of ideas with unflinching confidence is certainly appealing. On the other hand I just reject outright Coveys assertion that we all have a built in, standard issue, moral compass pointing true north. I think mileage may vary, along with all the other human traits.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#24  Postby TMB » Apr 20, 2010 11:29 pm

Locu, you said,
I speculate that these books don't influence readers toward LDS but rather resonate with readers' existing beliefs. And most people can enjoy their books without even noticing any LDS doctrine or message.


I have not read Meyers books, and not sure how closely the moves track to them, however it is clear they are written to appeal to peoples basic leanings. Religions also succeed on the same mechanism, regardless of the fiction or fact. I don’t think they resonate to existing beliefs as the primary cause (although this does happen), but rather operates on existing tendencies.

If you understand that people have a basic need for water, you can attract them by offering water or something that passes for water. Religion offers relief from existential anxieties, well written books also offer some form of salvation or escapism. The films of Meyers books appeal to teens with limited critical faculties, and the most impressionable and searching stage of life, just as religion does. The characters of Bella and Edward in the vampire series appeal to very basic drives of young men and women in terms of behaviour. Bella the femme fatale, caught between men with supernatural powers (knights on white chargers) with impressive and very dangerous powers, but the goodness to keep them under control (aka their primal urges of lust, protection of breeding partners etc). Bella wants to have it all ways, friends and lover to them both and not really aware of how her behaviour affects theirs (aka extended phenotype).

In fact Bella does not take responsibility of her behaviour, erratic and provocative, she is swept along with her own sexual powers, that are in themselves so powerful they turn boys into slavering werewolves and bloodsucking vampires (but still with enough humanity and inherent goodness) not only can they overcome their own urges but still have enough left to keep Bella on the straight and narrow.

This appeals to young girls who are caught in the maelstrom of their dawning sexuality over which they have little control, places the responsibility with the males, who are indeed dangerous and powerful, but still subject to the power of her sexuality and erratic whims. In religion to force of a deity, also powerful and terrible but still a shepherd for the weak sinner with their all too human lust. In both cases the message is come to me and live happily ever-after. These are not pre-existing beliefs, but tendencies we have that make us susceptible to following groups that promise some kind of salvation and answer to the issues we face in normal evolutionary life. LDS seeks converts, so do authors, success is not in the content but in the ability to enslave the minds of followers.

The less aware the audience is of the process behind all this, the better the follower you get.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#25  Postby Brain » Jan 12, 2011 4:50 pm

locutus7 wrote:
Covey is big-time LDS, if I recall. A mormon senior. Not that his religion is an influence on his books (or is it?)


A little bit, yes. According to this site, it would appear that Covey's ideas for the habits were inspired by Mormon scriptures. Even if that really is true for certain, there's no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.

By now, many schools have even been teaching these powerful principles to children, and that's made a big difference in a positive way. A school named A. B. Combs is a good example.

TL;DR

It's because the habits make sense, and they actually work when they are applied correctly.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#26  Postby ConnyRaSk » Jan 12, 2011 7:40 pm

hmmm for now...( IOW just bookmarking )
Literature, fiction, poetry, whatever, makes justice in the world. That’s why it almost always has to be on the side of the underdog. ~Grace Paley
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#27  Postby TMB » Jan 13, 2011 12:23 pm

Brain wrote:
locutus7 wrote:
Covey is big-time LDS, if I recall. A mormon senior. Not that his religion is an influence on his books (or is it?)


A little bit, yes. According to this site, it would appear that Covey's ideas for the habits were inspired by Mormon scriptures. Even if that really is true for certain, there's no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.

By now, many schools have even been teaching these powerful principles to children, and that's made a big difference in a positive way. A school named A. B. Combs is a good example.

TL;DR

It's because the habits make sense, and they actually work when they are applied correctly.


In a narrow sense the habits certainly do work, but I would argue that in the broader social sense they might not. If you read some of my earlier posts, I make the point that Covey has based some of his habits on false premises. He prmotes be proactive, not reactive, yet proactivity is relative in any social group. Not everyone on a competitive group can be proactive, because in relative terms, someone will be forced into a reactive position. He also dismisses a competitive environment and says we should be working for win/win, he dismisses the existence of competition in scholls and sports almost as if these were exceptions and could be corrected if we behave properly. By doing this he alows himself to promote individual selfishness while giving people the sense they are doing 'right' in a social sense. I am not sure if this ties back to the missionary zeal of LDS but there is the idea that they are going to save the world from themselves and see themselves as having a moral duty to civilise non LDS and convert them.

This makes it a very effective mechanism for social reform and introducing it into schools is a sure way to build law abiding, ambitious, and self righteous citizens. Just not ones that can think for themselves.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#28  Postby Brain » Jan 13, 2011 11:55 pm

TMB wrote:
In a narrow sense the habits certainly do work, but I would argue that in the broader social sense they might not. If you read some of my earlier posts, I make the point that Covey has based some of his habits on false premises. He prmotes be proactive, not reactive, yet proactivity is relative in any social group. Not everyone on a competitive group can be proactive, because in relative terms, someone will be forced into a reactive position. He also dismisses a competitive environment and says we should be working for win/win, he dismisses the existence of competition in scholls and sports almost as if these were exceptions and could be corrected if we behave properly. By doing this he alows himself to promote individual selfishness while giving people the sense they are doing 'right' in a social sense. I am not sure if this ties back to the missionary zeal of LDS but there is the idea that they are going to save the world from themselves and see themselves as having a moral duty to civilise non LDS and convert them.

This makes it a very effective mechanism for social reform and introducing it into schools is a sure way to build law abiding, ambitious, and self righteous citizens. Just not ones that can think for themselves.


Okay. Wow. I think I'm getting sick of message boards in general. :nono:
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#29  Postby DanDare » Jan 14, 2011 8:35 am

TMB wrote:He prmotes be proactive, not reactive, yet proactivity is relative in any social group. Not everyone on a competitive group can be proactive, because in relative terms, someone will be forced into a reactive position.

I think this is a narrow understanding of proactive. You make it out to be "being in charge". That is not how I interpret it. If I proactively choose to be on a team and am to take up a non-leadership role then I can proactively apply myself to that role. I understand it to mean "making conscious decisions at each moment".
TMB wrote:He also dismisses a competitive environment and says we should be working for win/win, he dismisses the existence of competition in scholls and sports almost as if these were exceptions and could be corrected if we behave properly.

No, he does not dismiss competition. win/win in a football game simply means playing your best so that everyone can enjoy the play and exercise their skills, and not grumping around about losing or being an unbearable winner. It does not mean "don't do things that have only one defined 'winner' ". In business it doesn't mean "no business competition". It means "what works for suppliers and customers and shareholders, and is competition the only activity or are there benefits for all by cooperating as well".

The thing about the habits is that they are not easy, they are hard work. Making them into habits, automatic behaviours, removes some of the overhead costs
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#30  Postby TMB » Jan 20, 2011 2:14 pm

Dandare, you said,

I think this is a narrow understanding of proactive. You make it out to be "being in charge". That is not how I interpret it.

I am interpreting how I think Covey defines proactive, and in reading his book I get the sense that he misses the point that our ability to be proactive/reactive is relative. My own opinion of the meaning of proactive is not what I am discussing, which one are you talking about? Mine or Coveys. Perhaps you mistake my criticism of Covey as being my position on proactivity/reactivity. Since you raise it, I would say that it does NOT mean being in charge as this implies responsibility, I would say it rather means being in control often without the responsibility. Consider a successful parent who ensures the best breadwinning for his family. To a very high degree they are responsible and also in charge, however their children exert a strong control over their behaviour without any responsibility. So the parent might work themselves to a standstill, be responsible if things go wrong, but most of the benefit goes to the child.
If I proactively choose to be on a team and am to take up a non-leadership role then I can proactively apply myself to that role. I understand it to mean "making conscious decisions at each moment".

Once again if I look at the examples Covey uses, one is of Victor Frankl, a German prisoner of war who managed to rise above the circumstances etc etc showing great proactivity, and lessening the action of others upon himself. Frankl was able to not only make conscious decisions to rise above he was also able retain a high degree of personal control, despite having no freedom, being tortured. This is about a persons ability to make and act upon decision relative to others around him. I accept that people can cooperate to some degree and work together to get multiplier effects but this links to my other criticism of Coveys perspective of competition. The other point he misses by using Frankl as an example is that Frankly is exceptional, in other words he is the only one behaving in this way. He uses Gandhi, another exception, as examples to strive for, but then uses them because they are so different from the norm. This is one reason the book works so well because he makes it out that everyone to achieve these levels, but once again, our proactivity is relative to others.
No, he does not dismiss competition.


Covey notes on P208 that ‘the academic world reinforces Win/Lose scripting”, he then says on p208 “Another powerful programming agent is athletics...., a zero sum game where some win and some lose. Winning is beating in the athletic arena”. He makes similar comments about law. This means he recognises that much of life is win/lose, but takes poans to note that this is not what we are really like. But he does not explain how we have managed to construct social institutions that do not reflect who we are. Instead we make to be different to who we really are. How does this work?
win/win in a football game simply means playing your best so that everyone can enjoy the play and exercise their skills, and not grumping around about losing or being an unbearable winner. It does not mean "don't do things that have only one defined 'winner' ".

This is what you would like sport to be, and some people do play sport in this way but most do not. Winning means beating the other side, and wining is highly valued. They might not whine and scream when they lose but its not something they want to happen to themselves.
In business it doesn't mean "no business competition". It means "what works for suppliers and customers and shareholders, and is competition the only activity or are there benefits for all by cooperating as well".

Once again note I am criticising Coveys prescription rather than trying to provide my own. Covey has plenty of logical slips when describing business competition, but avoids noting that in business is inevitable that direct competition does exist between competitors and many businesses go bust because they lose. Many buyers and suppliers attempt to screw the very best deal from the other, once again some go out of business not because of direct competition but because their own ecosystem strangles them.
He specifically says on p 209 – “But most of life is not a competition. We don’t live each day to competing with our spouse, our children etc..” In fact we do compete with our spouses. At a biological level the mitochondrial DMA from the sperm is eliminated by the egg, whose DNA only remains. Men and women need to work very hard to find the one they end up with as partners, and this is often a painful and traumatic process. Once established, people compromise and give away freedoms to retain the relationship. Pregnant mothers compete with their unborn foetus for nutrients, and eventually expel the baby due to the increasing risk to the mother, while the baby hangs in there as long as possible. Once a child children compete to resources, lifts to school, toys, stay out late, take drugs etc. I am not suggesting this is good or bad, or dismissing the cooperative, synergistic behaviour that also exists, but to dismiss the fundamentals as Covey does is naive.

The thing about the habits is that they are not easy, they are hard work. Making them into habits, automatic behaviours, removes some of the overhead costs

No doubt, but my criticism of Covey is around his basic misrepresentation of human nature and how life itself operates. On these naive premises he has built a self help prescription that fosters selfish behaviour while allowing people to be self righteous while doing it. Its a near perfect recipe for popular success.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#31  Postby DanDare » Jan 21, 2011 12:42 pm

I agree that Covey is not the smartest tool in the shed, but I think you are working hard to show that Covey meant what he did not mean.

Competition and conflict exist. You don't have to work hard to encounter them. You do have to work hard to avoid them or to avoid their costs. Thinking win/win is one way of directing yourself to see past the conflicts and competitions to see the opportunities. Yes, in sport there is winning and losing and winning is valued. I play chess and I play to win. If I encounter a player with less skill I will find ways to help them develop more skill. I will not "play poorly" because that doesn't teach, but I will handicap myself by removing pieces, or I will agree to "think out loud" while playing against them. Both these techniques help the opponent to win, but also ensure that the opponent is gaining learning experiences, even if I still beat them. The win for both of us is different, I gain over time a more challenging opponent, they gain ability, we both have challenging games in the meantime. This is what Covey means by win/win. If there are many people that can't think like this, if its human nature to just go for victory in every game, so what? Are you saying that people cannot learn to change this and so its pointless trying to get them to change?

And you keep referring to selfish behaviour and self righteousness. Caring for yourself and expanding your abilities is fine, in fact it is necessary if you are going to become effective at helping others. Its selfish if you do it at other peoples expense or with no intention of engaging with others. I don't get that from reading Covey.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#32  Postby TMB » Jan 25, 2011 1:04 pm

Dandare, you said,
I agree that Covey is not the smartest tool in the shed, but I think you are working hard to show that Covey meant what he did not mean.

Then you probably need to provide support for your assertions

Competition and conflict exist. You don't have to work hard to encounter them. You do have to work hard to avoid them or to avoid their costs. Thinking win/win is one way of directing yourself to see past the conflicts and competitions to see the opportunities.

Offering it up as a slogan is also a way to get people to overlook just how deeply set competition and conflict are. My point about Coveys book is that while he does raise both of these, he discounts them in such a way that I consider denial. There are a number of inconsistencies in the book that by skimming across with platitudes he will get away with any gullible reader. One of these is the way he deals with dependence, independence and interdependence. The logic just does not gel. He posits the achievable scenario is a mythical person who is so above daily life that its unreal. As I mentioned earlier he uses the example of Victor Frankl who was able to survive the concentration camps and come out on top. The critical feature of Frankl is that most people will never be like him. Covey puts up these unrealistic expectations and dodges the fact that these traits are relative to others. Winning is only possible if there are losers. I get that its also possible to create synergy in groups to produce more than individuals or in directly competitive scenarios, but human institutions are mostly composed of win/lose. War, business, schooling, athletics, sexual courtship. I am not suggesting we should not strive to create a more mutually beneficial world, but Covey does it by dismissing the reality of human nature. And in doing so, probably embeds these traits even more so because following his doctrine will just rationalise peoples behaviour around what it still essentially self serving behaviour.
As you seem to disagree with me, why not rebut the examples I have provided, or offer some of your own to give your assertions some teeth.
Yes, in sport there is winning and losing and winning is valued. I play chess and I play to win. If I encounter a player with less skill I will find ways to help them develop more skill. I will not "play poorly" because that doesn't teach, but I will handicap myself by removing pieces, or I will agree to "think out loud" while playing against them. Both these techniques help the opponent to win, but also ensure that the opponent is gaining learning experiences, even if I still beat them. The win for both of us is different, I gain over time a more challenging opponent, they gain ability, we both have challenging games in the meantime. This is what Covey means by win/win. If there are many people that can't think like this, if its human nature to just go for victory in every game, so what? Are you saying that people cannot learn to change this and so its pointless trying to get them to change?

Of course this happens, but think about people vying for school results that get them into university, and then competing for jobs, and then competing against other businesses to make money. Then trying to find a life partner, in effect competing with others to cement the relationship. Perhaps you are a professional chess player and this is your livelihood, however as I also played a number of competitive recreational hobbies and sports I can honestly say I would often have rather lost a good game than won a bad one, but losing did not mean losing part or all of my livelihood. As soon as you raise the stakes out true colors appear.

And you keep referring to selfish behaviour and self righteousness. Caring for yourself and expanding your abilities is fine, in fact it is necessary if you are going to become effective at helping others. Its selfish if you do it at other peoples expense or with no intention of engaging with others. I don't get that from reading Covey.

I have provided specifics from Coveys work, show me how these do not support my argument or show me specifics from Covey that support your point. I read his book with the specific intention to try and critique it as a transparent book rather than as a personal self help book. Doing it that way allowed me to be free of any wishful thoughts I might have of benefitting from his prescriptions. As I said before much of his logic is flawed, just as much of what he says is logically valid
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#33  Postby serenity » May 25, 2011 11:00 am

TMB wrote:Winning is only possible if there are losers.

Is it permissible to join in this conversation without having read the book?

It seems to me that you are seeing everything in a very black-and-white sort of way.

If I wish to excel in school, do I do better by studying in a class where I look down on the less able scholar who is holding back the progress of the class - or do I take time out of school to help that student to understand so that the whole class can progress at a faster rate? That's win/win.

As an athlete, if I often lose to a gloating opponent I might be discouraged enough to give up. But if that winner comes over to me and says well done, and offers help with my technique, I will be inspired to continue - and to perhaps one day give that winner a surprise by beating him. That's win/win.

If I want to take over a company I can do it the hard way - paying for lawyers and reports and long negotiations and advertising to the shareholders of the other company. Or I can talk with the boss and offer him a position in the new combined company at an enhanced remuneration, and make it a friendly takeover. That's win/win.

It would seem that Covey is saying that progress is made easier and better by making friends along the way by helping them to an improvement in their own life so that everybody comes out in a better situation than before.

Win/win or gain/gain. It's not just about coming out on top but about making sure that everyone gains as you come out on top. Why make enemies for the future?

I also believe you are not seeing proactivity for what it is.

I may be the dullard in class - I could continue to hold everybody back, or I could proactively go to the star pupil and ask for help. Star pupil feels good, helps me - and a bond is made that may at some later time help both of us.

The losing athlete proactively asking the winner for help gains by better technique, the "winner" gets a stiffer competition that inspires better performance.

The boss of the company about to be taken over should be good enough to read the signs in the market - why should he not proactively approach the bigger company and suggest an arrangement that makes it a soft takeover and where he can get a salary better than he currently enjoys?

It appears to me that Covey is saying that by looking out for everybody around you, you can be more successful than by only seeking your aims. Why does networking figure so highly in business? It's proactive people looking to gain advantage for all parties. Your network would soon collapse if all you did was take from it a personal gain that destroyed others.
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Re: Coveys 7 Habits - why is it so successful?

#34  Postby TMB » May 26, 2011 11:31 am

Serenity,
Your post appears to mostly suggest that Coveys behaviour is what people OUGHT to be doing as opposed to what they ARE doing, and this misses my criticism of Coveys work. Its an easy social sell to put forward win/win statements to other people because this is less of a threat, but how real is it? My contention is that Covey offers these as slogans but dismisses much the reality and in effect allows people to pursue mostly selfish ends while adopting a righteous stance that its the ‘best interest of all’. Note that this approach underlies all religious movements as well and while it might be a coincidence it is a mechanism that attracts followers with the idea that they can achieve something for themselves and also improve the lot of others, however the logic is lacking in most cases. I will show you with some of your specific comments how this is done.
you said,

Is it permissible to join in this conversation without having read the book?

Be my guest. However, without reading the book you will find it harder to understand why I have taken such a vack and white approach and you will also note that much of what Covey says is certaibnlt valid. It is a few basic points that I am looking at this I think undermine his whole premise. Covey makes some fundamental premises and builds his case upon these. This is not to say that there is no case for these in certain situations, however they are highly simplistic and as I noted most people do not scratch benehath the surface of the book and it makes the overall pacj=kage faisafe in terms of getting disciples. Simply because it sanitises and legitimises self serving behaviour without the associated social guilt.

It seems to me that you are seeing everything in a very black-and-white sort of way.

I accept that there are gray areas around parts of the book, as well as principles I agree with, however without taking the BW stance it is easy for the flaws to go unnoticed.

If I wish to excel in school, do I do better by studying in a class where I look down on the less able scholar who is holding back the progress of the class - or do I take time out of school to help that student to understand so that the whole class can progress at a faster rate? That's win/win.

Are you suggesting that it IS the case or SHOULD be the case that the more able students are helping the less able students to do this? Note that by making this argument you will certainly get social approval and this is just what Covey does. I say the reality is different, most students and the parents of these students are bent on getting the best for themselves. Certainly some provide assistance to the less able, but this is not the basis of why they are at school and does not compare to the extent they assist others. Simply note the entrance requirements for each stage of school. The marks are relative to your peers. University qualification is based upon how you perform relative to others, and if you disqualify yourself by helping others, this means you are more concerned with the welfare of others than yourself. This certainly can happen, people die in war to assist their country, however there are usually social pressures to effect this that ultimately appeal to their selfish interest.
As an athlete, if I often lose to a gloating opponent I might be discouraged enough to give up. But if that winner comes over to me and says well done, and offers help with my technique, I will be inspired to continue - and to perhaps one day give that winner a surprise by beating him. That's win/win.

But the basic fact remains that in every event, regardless of the fact that we protect athletes by grading events, to soften the blow of losing – there is still only one winner per event. The fundamental premise of the event is to compare peoples abilities and recognise the person or team who is best. This is something human society has created to reflect the way things are in nature, Covey notes that this exists but dismisses it without recognising that its almost impossible to operate without this. Instead he views it as an aberration and then moves on to the win/win principle as if the people coming second in the race are also winners. Compared to the people that do not compete he is right, but when people who desperately want to win, do not, they feel the pain of losing. It depends upon your standards and expectations as an athlete, if it is your livelihood you will feel this pain more than someone who does it for recreation, and visible sportsmanship is politically correct. Very few athletes express their sense of being better to others because of the social fallout, let me assure you they have no wish to be beaten by others. Ask yourself why professional athletes need to be tested to illegal substances that improve performance – so they can help others?
You have said this is how we OUGHT to behave and this is how Covey sells these. What we OUGHT to be doing as opposed to what we ARE doing.

If I want to take over a company I can do it the hard way - paying for lawyers and reports and long negotiations and advertising to the shareholders of the other company. Or I can talk with the boss and offer him a position in the new combined company at an enhanced remuneration, and make it a friendly takeover. That's win/win.

You certainly could do it this way, and you could also take the soft friendly approach and ultimately take away the spoils at the end of the transaction as well. Coming in with guns blazing ‘might is right’ has limited value in the western world, the diplomatic approach and the polite, civilised hand of friendship is a better one to defend. I ask how real is the altruistic approach and is it really possible to get a win/win scenario? Consider university places for 100 students has with 1000 applicants, 900 will not win a place. Tertiary education wants to select the cream of students, as more achieve the results to get places and bachelors degree, then higher achievers focus on honours or masters or doctorates. The system is designed with this in mind, to find the best, the better, the good and the bad. Business operates the same way, school, sport, selecting a mate, its based upon selected one (or more) in preference to the others.

It would seem that Covey is saying that progress is made easier and better by making friends along the way by helping them to an improvement in their own life so that everybody comes out in a better situation than before.

He is certainly saying this, but does the evidence support the underlying premises he makes? Declaring war on another is not good business, rather softly approach and try to either grow the total business, or take as much for yourself as possible. How do you imagine car manufacturers operate, by trying to share the sales with others? A salesman working for company x suggesting to a potential client they should look at some of the competition as their cars might be better? Car salesmen are well used to lying about their products to make them as attractive as possible to buyers, they know what it is like to lose a sale. Any sales operation operates on the same principle. Even with a sales organisation people will try and get most sales over their colleagues, sometimes to the detriment of the company. Professional athletes and sportsmen want to win at all costs, and when they lose their coaches are often replaced.

Win/win or gain/gain. It's not just about coming out on top but about making sure that everyone gains as you come out on top. Why make enemies for the future?

I agree there are possible joint benefit outcomes but these scenarios are limited. People do make plenty of enemies but because its in both parties interest to avoid costly confrontations this is what happens, however lack of conflict does not mean they are not enemies. If I look at relationships in business, schools, clubs, politics and the like, deep friendships are uncommon, most relationships are for expedience and there is plenty of ill feeling.

I also believe you are not seeing proactivity for what it is.
I may be the dullard in class - I could continue to hold everybody back, or I could proactively go to the star pupil and ask for help. Star pupil feels good, helps me - and a bond is made that may at some later time help both of us.

This is a possible scenario however Coveys use is in the sense that if you are not proactive you will find that people will impose upon you (and without saying it directly) implies that you need to take control over others when you want to achieve your objectives. He does not go into much detail as this exposes an underlying flaw in his principles, that of winners and losers. Once again consider the religious missionary who brings light to the heathens. Well intentioned and often providing useful assistance but also imposing their moral and cultures upon a passive population – all done because they knew what was best for their converts.

The losing athlete proactively asking the winner for help gains by better technique, the "winner" gets a stiffer competition that inspires better performance.

Again this is possible, but I do not see too much of this happening. Winning athletes, even amateur ones are concerned about their own performance and injury potential, and while they will take advantage of offered assistance, the altruistic side of this is minimal. If you had some real life examples or arguments that support the logic of why this should happen it might help your argument.

The boss of the company about to be taken over should be good enough to read the signs in the market - why should he not proactively approach the bigger company and suggest an arrangement that makes it a soft takeover and where he can get a salary better than he currently enjoys?

If he is smart he will try and make the best of a bad situation, and people do reach compromises that offer some win/win, but are you suggesting this is the norm or what OUGHT to be happening?

It appears to me that Covey is saying that by looking out for everybody around you, you can be more successful than by only seeking your aims. Why does networking figure so highly in business? It's proactive people looking to gain advantage for all parties. Your network would soon collapse if all you did was take from it a personal gain that destroyed others.

Human society is highly complex and no one is autonomous meaning that we all pay a price to get benefits from our society. Taxation is one way this is done and I don’t know any people who try to pay more tax than they have to, only less. This means that people by observation make the best of what they can get without giving too much. There are plenty of exceptions to this, charitable organisations for the poor, the old, the sic and some people do it for no financial gain, however observe the majority of educational, political, commercial systems all operate on guarded co-operation and selfishness. People with high capability form a network hierarchy because their followers hope to gain some benefit and so tithe themselves to the main man, they also need to be careful they do not alienate their followers but this depends upon just how much power they have to influence them. Being an arrogant leader is dangerous as in western democratic systems you risk being taken down. In some developing countries the risk is far less, so political and business leaders rule by fear and force, their followers to afraid to bring them down, and when they do its usually also with force. Africa offers some excellent examples.
Once again, I am not suggesting that Covey makes no valid points, just that some of his points have no logic or evidence to support them and he draws false conclusions and arrives with a creed that is postcard perfect to get people to act on his principles, feel good about it and yet be ultimately selfish. I am neither for or against this creed, but pointing out the duplicity in the text and remarking on what a successful ply it is.
TMB
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