No amount of examination of a poisonous gas, Chloride, or an explosive metal, Sodium, would ever have anyone believe that when the two are mixed together in nature we get a harmless white powder that we sprinkle on food. Yet the marriage of Sodium and Chloride creates salt.
This is synergy in action.
Dissection down to the cellular level, of a caterpillar, excludes any possibility of a butterfly. Yet in the right conditions, a butterfly is what we get.
This is synergy. When one plus one equals something far greater than two.
According to Buckminster Fuller, Synergy is the behaviour of the whole system unpredicted by the behaviour of any parts of the system when the parts are considered only separately.
Take a bunch of rocks, and some planets, and by examining them in detail, you will not be able to predict the behaviour that occurs between them that we know as gravity.
Metal alloys…When combined together the tensile strength of iron, chromium and nickel not only exceeds the strength of the weakest link, but even outperforms the sum of each of the tensile strengths of the components.
Imagine if we enacted the law of Synergy in our lives? If we knew that by working with someone else, the sum of our working together will be exponential to working in isolation. That if we are in a hurry to do big things, we need to partner with the right people…because the synergy created would speed everything up.
The law of Synergy requires that we start with the whole system first. The most painstaking examination of the parts will not reveal the whole.
This law is Universal. It has profound implications. Yet we almost never start with the whole. Our entire training and education systems is designed to have us see the parts.
Most of the mess we are in (environment, infrastructure, housing, poverty) is because of our limited view of the whole. We have given scant regard to the need to consider the Whole. We must consider the study of consequence as an imperative. Synergy and Ecology are great partners. (See also the article on Field Effects.)
A cell in my body must be considered within not just its organ location, but within my whole body, and the body must be considered within the environment I live, which must be considered within the environment called Universe. The very nature of Synergy implies the requirement to view the world with an integral whole system lens.
Integrative Medicine requires we look at the whole. At the least, we consider the body chemistry and disease state PLUS the environment my body resides in PLUS the culture around me and its beliefs and rituals PLUS my own beliefs and thinking. Leave any one of these out and we are ignoring the principle of Synergy. To focus purely on the diseased cell or organ is to miss a significant part of the equation. Equally, just one cell with a dis-eased relationship to the whole makes all cells suffer. Cancer is such a disease. Cancer cells refuse to cooperate or build a relationship with the whole, and in the process ends up killing the whole and itself.
Consider the environmental crisis. If we do not start with Universe first, we simply cannot create the solutions required. Too much of our time is spent examining the parts. Right now we are so focused on CO2 when we are missing the fact that in order to keep our energy efficient refrigerator going requires an over-supply of 188% of energy due to inefficiencies in the chain. And this does not include the cost of steel, water, land contamination, transmission etc. What if we focused on bringing these inefficiencies down to near zero, as well as considered how to create energy?
If anything our current Universe is telling us it is that the environmental crisis and the economic crisis are not separate, but part of the whole systemic breakdown.
Equally, one individual who interferes with the natural design of the whole, by polluting, depleting and disrupting the equilibrium of the whole, is like a cancer cell in the body of humanity. Inherent responsibility rests with all of us to act with Synergy.
As Bucky would say, pollution is simply stuff out of place (Out of Integrity). There is nothing wrong with the stuff that constitutes pollution. What is wrong is that we have not considered Universe first and therefore we have not factored all the pieces, all of the field effects, all the consequences, into our design system.
Where in your life and work are you limiting yourself to the view of the parts?
Your health? Your lifestyle? Your buying decisions? Your value systems? The products you create? What happens to your food? (How it arrived, where the waste goes, what is the cost in land and water use, including contamination, chemicals used and there effect, animals, transport, the market, how it affects your body, who else is affected…the list to consider is large)
A beautiful example of Synergy that has more relational implications is;
The pieces of the Chariot are useless
unless they work in accordance with the whole.
A man’s life brings nothing
unless he lives in accordance with the whole Universe.
Playing one’s part
in accordance with the Universe
is true humility. Tao Te Ching
Our ego insists that we are separate, special, superior. Our truth is that we are a part of the whole and our separateness is an illusion. On our own we are nothing, together we are Universe.
20, or 100, or 1000 = 1 plus 1 (Put another way…1+1 = 20, or 100, or 1000)
Take two people and you will get a synergistic response. The response is unpredictable. Will we get a positive 100 or 20, or a negative 100 or 5? Will these two people together create something that appears to far exceed what they would get on their own..in the positive..or in the negative?
When we are building teams and partnerships, intrinsic in the requirement for a team or partnership is that the Synergy of the team comes together in the Positive.
With you I am greater than I am on my own. (In the negative, with you I become less than I am on my own.) The question we all need to ask is when you and I come together what is the magnitude of Synergy? Is it -2, 2, 5, or 5000?
At the least fabulous partnerships are greater than 2. Lets shoot for multiples of 2. Or multiples of 20. Why come together unless the whole is greater than the sum of the parts?
A delicious story that illustrates this relationship is the story of Bernadette from Australia, and Henri Krug. (From the Krug Champagne House.) Bernadette, a very respected “champagne nose”, was invited by Mr. Krug to make up a champagne blend while she was visiting his chalk cellars in France. She tasted the different champagnes and made her choice of blends. Her process was to choose all of the best blends she had discerned. When put together the result was horrible. Henri Krug was anticipating this outcome and laughed. He rebuked her gently…a great champagne is made of some great and some not so great wines! So unpredictable.
Great team building in the workplace does not always require only superstars. What makes a great team is the Synergy that occurs when the team comes together. Synergy is a partner of alchemy. Something magical, unpredictable and counter-intuitive happens when the right elements come together. This is what great team coaches know. Add a not so great player to the mix and in the environment of other greats, they rise.
Who is on your team? How much Synergy do you create together? How has each player committed to their own personal mastery? Who have you previously disregarded for your team who may bring that certain magical, alchemical element that only Synergy determines?
Do check out the article I wrote on relational synergistic design, or how to create amazing teams who co-create Moonshots without human upset and entirely self managed. Synergy is intrinsic to this. Synergy is intrinsic to everything.