The dictionary defines synergy as:
the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
Synergy is when any group of people (rallied by a common cause) come together to create something that none of them could have created by themselves. It’s about doing things not “your way or my way”, but a higher (and better) way. You can also think of synergy as an apex of a triangle, where the two sides of the triangle can be thought of as opposing/differing views/ideas.
Synergy is how any meaningful project gets done. A great example of synergy is the plot of the film, 12 Angry Men, where a jury is assigned to give their verdict in a murder case; how they come up with their decision in consensus forms the crux of the film.
There are so many examples of synergy in our lives. Nature is by far the most complex case of synergy, where everything is interconnected and interdependent. Other examples of synergy include using colors in a paint to create a painting, using food ingredients to create different recipes, etc.
What happens when there is no synergy? There can be groupthink when we have people in a team who think alike (or have similar strengths). When a team is not multidisciplinary, we may not be thinking differently enough to create something new (or unprecedented) in terms of solving problems for our clients.
Then there is compromise, which is a lower form of synergy. You can think of compromise as 1+1 equals 1.5, whereas synergy is 1+1=8, 16, or greater. Compromise happens when both parties give up something and in the end feel dissatisfied with the final solution. When we compromise, we are on opposite sides of the same problem. When we have synergy, we see the problem/challenge the same way. Success in marriages is often (wrongly) thought of as a compromise.
In order to create synergy with others (on the outside), Covey suggests that we need to create synergy within ourselves first. That involves understanding and internalizing the principles of being proactive, practicing healthy selfishness, and starting with the end in mind. It also includes thinking win/win, learning to understand others, and doing the essential. This is equally true for you and your team (any group of people who have rallied for a common cause).
Start with the end in mind. Know (and live) your (or your team’s) Why. Only when you know your Why and share it with others will they come to you because they believe in your Why. They will show up not for you but for themselves and for what you believe in. When you have a group of people united by a common cause or belief, then you can begin to create synergy.
When we have a group of people who have come together for a common cause, belief, or purpose, here are some things that will help them create synergy, which will ultimately help them achieve their mission.
The key to creating synergy is to value your differences with others (in the group). Differences could be mental, emotional, and psychological. We value those differences by realizing that we see the world not as it is, but as we are and we are all right from our own perspective. We can all see the same things differently; it’s not logical but psychological.
Valuing our differences requires us to be open to change. It means respecting each others’ views and understanding others’ viewpoints without feeling the need to defend or protect our own views. It requires understanding that everyone is always right from their perspective. It requires any group of people with different (yet complementary) talents to come together to use their strengths, and, in the process, make their weaknesses irrelevant to accomplish their goal or mission.
The problem occurs when we only think about ourselves and what we want. Instead of focusing on yourself and what you want, first focus on the needs of the other person. Listen to them. Try to understand their perspective without feeling the need to agree/disagree with them. You have to understand their values, concerns, and expectations, all of which should be taken into account in making a decision. Only when they feel that you’ve understood their perspective can you begin to help them understand your point of view. Any kind of negotiation (product sale, services, contracts, etc.) is a wonderful opportunity to create synergy with others.
Most of the work in organizations is done collaboratively in teams. Knowing how to work well with others by working in teams effectively is a crucial skill to master in order to make progress on and, ultimately, complete your projects.
This is true not just with teams in organizations, but any group of people that come together with a similar values or belief system. They might have different strengths, but they are rallied for a common cause — the greater good.
Always think win/win — what is best for you and the other person in any situation. Be solution-focused, not problem-oriented. Only those who can think win/win can create synergy (and vice-versa).
Synergy requires having a safe environment — a place where there is a spirit of trust and safety. You need trust and open communication with your people. You want to think win/win and believe in a third alternative. You have to keep going back and forth until you both arrive at a mutually beneficial solution, and one that is better than what you both proposed originally.
Having synergy requires us to have deep personal security and openness. It requires understanding (and applying) the principle of divergence and convergence. Synergy is present in all effective meetings and is absent from the ineffective ones. Only when you have synergy, instead of opposing and defending our viewpoint, there is a genuine effort to understand others. It’s only then that we can go to our meetings prepared to listen to others rather than to present, and to be prepared to create and synergize rather than to defend and protect.
Synergy relies a great deal on the value of creative process to determine the outcome. We can have synergy only when our group of people have the discipline to follow a creative process.
It also requires us to use both sides of our brain — the left brain (analytical, rational, objective) and right brain (emotional, visual, subjective). For instance, being left-brained alone is inadequate in solving problems that require a great deal of creativity.
Synergy occurs any time a group of people come together to champion a common cause or belief. When we have synergy, we build on each other’s ideas and insights to create something new.
The best solutions are always synergistic — something that neither you nor others could have come up with alone, yet the solution satisfies the both of you without making any compromise. That is synergy! Once we experience synergy, we are never quite the same again.