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Principles of Creative Cooperation

Habit 6

The exercise of the other habits prepares us for synergy.

Synergy means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself - the most empowering, unifying and exciting part.

The essence of synergy is to value differences - to respect them, to build on strengths, and to compensate for weaknesses. The way to achieve synergy is through the creative process, which is terrifying, because you never know where the creative process will lead you.

Synergistic Communication

Synergistic communication is opening your mind and heart to new possibilities. It may seem like you are casting aside "beginning with the end in mind," but you are actually fulfilling it by clarifying your goals and discovering better ones.

Almost all creative endeavors are somewhat unpredictable, and unless people have a high tolerance for ambiguity and get their security from integrity and inner values, they find it unpleasant to be involved in highly creative enterprises.

By taking the time to really build a team, creating a high emotional bank account, the group can become very closely knit. The respect among members can become so high that if there is a disagreement, there can be a genuine effort to understand.

High trust leads to high cooperation and communication. The progression of communication is defensive (win or lose/win), to respectful (compromise), to synergistic (win/win). Synergistic communication must be achieved to develop creative possibilities, including better solutions than original proposals. If synergy isn't achieved, even the effort will usually result in a better compromise.

Synergy in the Classroom

A synergistic class progresses from a safe environment to brainstorming. The spirit of evaluation is subordinated to the spirit of creativity, imagining and intellectual networking. Then the entire class is transformed with the excitement of a new direction. This is not a flight of fancy, but of substance.

Other times a class may approach synergy, but descends into chaos. Synergy requires the right chemistry and emotional maturity in the group to develop.

Synergy in Business

Excitement can replace respectful exchanges and ego battles. But a particular synergistic experience can seldom be recreated. Rather, new experiences should be sought.

By synergistically creating a mission statement, it becomes engraved in the hearts and minds of the participants.

Fishing for the Third Alternative

The "middle" way may not be compromise, but a third alternative, like the apex of a triangle.

By mutually seeking to understand and be understood, the participants pool their desires. They work together on the same side to create a third alternative to meet everyone's needs.

Instead of a transaction, this is a transformation. Each participant gets what they really want, and they build their relationship in the process.

Negative Synergy

The usual win/lose approach results in expending negative synergy. It's like trying to drive down the road with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. Instead of taking their foot off the brake, most people give it more gas. They apply more pressure to strengthen their position, creating more resistance. In contrast, a cooperative approach enables accomplishment.

The problem is that highly dependent people are trying to succeed in an interdependent reality. They may talk win/win technique, but they want to manipulate others. These insecure people need to mold others to their way of thinking.

The key to interpersonal synergy is intrapersonal synergy - synergy within ourselves helps us achieve synergy with others. The heart of intrapersonal synergy is the first three habits, which give the internal security sufficient to handle the risks of being open and therefore vulnerable. In addition, by learning to use the left brain, logic, with the right brain, emotion, we develop psychic synergy that is suited to reality, which is logical and emotional.

Valuing the Differences

The essence of synergy is to value the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people. The key to valuing these differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are.

The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings.

That two people can disagree and both be right is not logical, it's psychological. And it's very real. We see the same thing, but interpret it differently because of our conditioning. Unless we value the differences in our perceptions and understand that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are almost always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend the limits of our conditioning.

If two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary. So when I become aware of the difference in our perceptions, I say "Good! Help me see what you see." By doing that, I not only increase my awareness, but I also affirm you. I give you psychological air. I create an environment for synergy.

Force Field Analysis

According to Kurt Lewin, a sociologist, the current level of performance or being is a state of equilibrium between the driving forces encouraging upward movement and restraining forces discouraging it.

Driving forces are positive, personable, and conscious. Restraining forces are negative, emotional, unconscious, and social/psychological. Both forces must be considered in dealing with change.

Increasing driving forces may bring temporary results. Eventually, restraining forces act like a spring to throw the level back down.

To produce synergy, the concepts of win/win, mutual understanding and seeking synergy are used to work directly on the restraining forces. Involving people in the problem, so they understand it, makes it their problem. They tend to become an important part of the solution. As a result, shared goals are created, enabling the whole enterprise to move upward.

The legal process should be a last, not first, resort because it polarizes the parties, making synergy practically impossible.

All Nature is Synergistic

Ecology, the interrelationship of things, describes the synergism in nature. In the relationship creative powers are maximized. The Seven Habits are also interrelated and are most powerful when used together.

Synergy is the crowning achievement of the previous habits. It is effectiveness in an interdependent reality.

A lot of synergy is in your circle of influence. You can value both your own analytical and creative sides. You can sidestep negative energy and look for the good in others. You can courageously express your ideas in interdependent situations. You can value the differences in others when you see only two alternatives, yours and the "wrong" one. You can seek a synergistic third alternative.

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