About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

#26: The 3rd Alternative

The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life's Most Difficult Problems, by Stephen R. Covey (New York: FranklinCovey Co., 2011)

"From the multimillion-copy bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People -- hailed as the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century -- The 3rd Alternative introduces a breakthrough approach to conflict resolution and creative problem solving. One of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans, Dr. Stephen R. Covey has helped millions transform their lives. In The 3rd Alternative, Covey turns his formidable insight to a powerful new way to resolve professional and personal difficulties and create solutions to great challenges in organizations and society.

"In any conflict, the 1st Alternative is my way and the 2nd Alternative is your way. The fight usually boils down to a question of whose way is better. There are many methods of 'conflict resolution,' but most involve compromise, a low-level accommodation that stops the fight without breaking through to amazing new results. The 3rd Alternative is about more than just an armistice -- it's about creating a new and improved reality. A departure from the usual approaches to conflict resolution, negotiation, and innovation, this book reveals a new way of thinking that will be embraced not only by the many fans who have flocked to Covey's prior books, but also by anyone who is seeking solutions in their professional or personal lives.

"The 3rd Alternative transcends traditional solutions to conflict by forging a path toward a third option, a 3rd Alternative that moves beyond your way or my way to a higher and better way -- one that allows both parties to emerge from debate or even heated conflict in a far better place than either had envisioned. With the 3rd Alternative, nobody has to give up anything, and everyone wins.

"To a world of escalating strife and contention, 3rd Alternative thinkers like those Covey profiles here bring creative solutions, peace, and healing. Through key examples and stories fro his work as a consultant, Covey demonstrates the power of 3rd Alternative thinking. His wide-ranging examples include a Canadian metropolitan police force that transformed a crime-plagued community by abandoning their 'them vs. us' mentality and changing the whole definition of police work; a father who rescued his troubled daughter from years of despair and near suicide in one surprising evening; a judge who brought a quick, peaceful end to one of the biggest environmental lawsuits in American history without setting foot in a courtroom; the principal of a high school for the children of migrant workers who raised their graduation rate from a dismal 30 percent to 90 percent and tripled their basic skill levels; a handful of little-known people who are quietly finding new ways to bring peace to the Middle East; and many others. These various groups and individuals offer living examples of how to create new and better results instead of escalating conflict, as well as how to build strong relationships with diverse people based on an attitude of winning together.

"Beyond conflict and compromise, The 3rd Alternative unveils a radical, creative new way of thinking. It is a groundbreaking but practical work that demonstrates why 3rd Alternative thinking represents the supreme opportunity of our time."

Table of Contents:
  1. The Transition Point
  2. The 3rd Alternative
  3. The 3rd Alternative at Work
  4. The 3rd Alternative at Home
  5. The 3rd Alternative at School
  6. The 3rd Alternative and the Law
  7. The 3rd Alternative in Society
  8. The 3rd Alternative in the World
  9. A 3rd Alternative Life
  10. Inside Out
My Take:
Honestly, I don't know; I'm still thinking about it. As business self-help writers go, Covey is better than most. He's got some tendency towards oversimplification, true, but I've seen far worse. And it's hard to find fault with someone who truly believes we can solve the world's problems through skillfully applied active listening and empathy (and even credits Carl Rogers for it). But I can't help but wonder if it's really as easy as he suggests to apply 3rd Alternative techniques to difficult situations. Unlike the famous 7 Habits, the 3rd Alternative stuff really does take at least 2 to tango, and what if you just plain can't see what the 3rd Alternative is or come up with some creative way to get there in a given situation?

Has potential, but as I said, I need to chew on this on for a while.

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