If you plant two plants close together, the roots commingle and improve the quality of the soil so that both plants will grow better than if they were separated. If you put two pieces of wood together, they will hold much more than the total of the weight held by each separately.
That is what Steven Covey said in his wonderful book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about synergy: One plus one equals three or more.
What follows is mostly Steven’s opinion and words. It just highly resonated with me and I decided to write about it here.
So, what is synergy? Simply put, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The very way that a man and a woman bring a child into the world is synergistic.
Once a professor from IE Business School visited WIUT to hold a guest lecture and the first thing he did was to write rules on whiteboard that would help him to hold a great lecture. However, he did not write his own rules. He asked us, the students on the hall, what rules, in our opinion, we should comply with so that the lecture would be as useful and enjoyable as possible. “Respect others’ opinion”, “Keep calm while somebody else is talking”, “Be active” and the like were what we came up with.
He wanted us to act synergistically, and we did. What do you think happened that day? We had one of the most useful and interesting lectures ever.
Synergy is useful even in retailing: Imagine two shops located in two different parts of the city. Around 130 people visit the first one and 150 people visit the second one in one day. Now, what happens if you put them next to each other? Chances are people visiting the first one will visit the second shop too. They both will have more customers that they used to. That is a win-win case(assuming the location is good).
I could go on forever with examples of why synergy is what we should strive for most of the time.
However, many people have not really experienced even a moderate degree of synergy in their family life or in other interactions. They may have memories of some unusual creative experiences, perhaps in athletics, where they were involved in a real team spirit for a period of time. Or perhaps they were in an emergency situation where people cooperated to an unusually high degree and submerged ego and pride in an effort to save someone’s life or to produce a solution to a crisis.
This represents one of the great tragedies and wastes in life, because so much potential remains untapped — completely undeveloped and unused. To many, such events may seem unusual, almost out of character with life, even miraculous. But this is not so. These things can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. Just let the synergy be!