Book Review: The 3rd Alternative – by Stephen Covey

The 3rd Alternative – by Stephen Covey

The 3rd Alternative - Stephen CoveyEveryone gets something different out of a book. The opinions here are mine only.

The gems….

It really is worth operating in the way Stephen Covey advocates and instilling this as a part of our DNA. The “Talking Stick” concept, in the spirit of the African “Ubuntu” principle, is one I would like to see practiced. The “Talking Stick” is passed from one person to another – when the person with the stick does the talking, no one else is allowed to interrupt except to ask for clarification. Later, the listeners are tasked with re-stating the speaker’s point of view, emotions and all, to the satisfaction of the speaker. This last phrase, “to the satisfaction of the speaker” is critical. It ensures proper listening and empathy – all too often lacking in discussions. From there, the parties transcend to find novel solutions not thought of previously.

Covey cites great examples of where this has worked and these are certainly worth studying.

The challenges….

It is a long book. In places, I felt it could be more concise. The examples cited are great but as with many great ideas, there are obstacles to implementing them widely in practice. How can organizations (so entrenched in shareholder value and measureable outcomes) convince shareholders that they are investing time wisely, tackling the root of problems, while their competitors get better rewarded for churning out profits? Another problem – after all the listening and empathizing, what if there is a fundamental difference in relative importance of values upheld by both parties? Things can get pretty complex.

Concluding remarks

I believe there is a lot to be gained by applying the methods in the book to problems of the world. It is most likely, though, that as with all great ideas, the book will be read and people will go back to the daily trudge of life unless a widespread effort is made to train everyone in this and make a revolutionary change in the way we do things. I for one will be bought over more if I begin to see TV debates applying the “Talking Stick” method in earnest, instead of pitting one opinionated person against another.

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  • moraghsblog  On August 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Interesting view point …. but probably difficult to implement widely.

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