Covey #6 – Synergize – how to make 1 plus 1 equal 3

Covey #6 – Synergize – how to make 1 plus 1 equal 3

Making one plus one equal three or even more, that is what synergy is about.

Basically, synergizing is a combination of thinking win/win and understanding the other. Covey adds one aspect to these earlier discussed habits: we need to understand, seek and appreciate the differences.

3 things you need to keep in mind to synergize

  • Your worldview is not objective. Everyone has different experiences and these experiences shape how we view the world. Realizing this is the case for your worldview too is necessary for creating synergy.
  • Be different. New perspectives and insights can cause your worldview to change. If someone thinks exactly like you it is hard to achieve new insights through conversation. If you and your colleague or friend have different points of view it is worthwhile to understand where the differences come from.
  • Appreciate the difference. Besides recognizing the other has a different point of view also appreciate this other perspective. The other must have good reasons to think this way, so try to understand and learn from him. Ask why the other is choosing his position instead of assuming his position to be nonsense beforehand.

A limitation I would like to add

Covey suggests that differences are not logical, they are psychological. I suppose this means you and I have different experiences and hence see the world differently.

There is a more philosophical and deeper problem behind different experiences that might partly go together with this idea, but also complicates it.

There are a few questions we will never be capable of answering. An easy example is the question whether God exists or not. We cannot prove he does, neither can we prove he does not. But you have an idea about that, just like I do. Depending on what perspective you take (he exists/he does not exist), your argumentation structure will be different. But can we call this psychological? Or even logical?

Through our experiences we develop not only a worldview, we also develop a general understanding of how the world works. Everyone develops his own logical construction of the world. This logical construction needs not only be based on experience, it can also be built on arguments and is a bit (way!) more complex than Covey pictured.

Necessary conclusion from this limitation

Covey concludes that he does not want to talk to someone who thinks the same as he does. It is exactly the difference in thought that brings value and makes synergy possible.

I can see the value of differences. I also see how people that differ can synergize more than people who are the same. I believe, however, that we always differ from one another. As long as the other is not playing up to me and we are still listening to one another, there should not be too big a problem to create synergy.

I would rather say that for synergy to occur, the differences should not be too big. As Leo Strauss (a political philosopher) points out, when our views of the world are too far apart, we can no longer understand what the other is saying. That makes a discussion useless.

When we differ too much in our perception of the world there is less room for understanding.


Stephen R. Covey. “The 7 HABITS of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic.” FreePress, New York, 2004.

Leo Strauss. “Natural Right and History.” University of Chicago Press, 1953.

Image courtesy of nongpimmy/





Innovation and Research Officer at Sugar Habits
Judith studied behavioral change (applied social psychology) and is currently finishing her masters in philosophy with special attention for philosophy of action and intentionality. She works for SugarHabits a social media platform that helps people unlock more of their potential through learning new habits.

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