Synergy is the essence of Principle-Centered Leadership. It is the essence of principle-centered parenting. It catalyzes, unifies, and unleashes the greatest powers within people. All the lessons we have covered prepare us to create the miracle of synergy.
What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part.
The creative process is also the most terrifying part because you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen or where it is going to lead. You don’t know what new dangers and challenges you’ll find. It takes an enormous amount of internal security, to begin with, the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery, the spirit of creativity. Without a doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of the base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness. You become a trailblazer, a pathfinder. You open new possibilities, new territories, new continents so that others can follow.
Synergy is everywhere in nature. 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 weight held by each separately. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One plus one equals three or more.
The challenge is to apply the principles of creative cooperation, which we learn from nature, in our social interactions. Family life provides many opportunities to observe synergy and to practice it.
The very way that man and a woman bring a child into the world is synergistic. The essence of synergy is to value differences — to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses.
We value the physical differences between men and women, husbands, and wives. But what about the social, mental, and emotional differences? Could these differences not also be sources of creating new exciting forms of life — creating an environment that is truly fulfilling for each person, that nurtures the self-esteem and self-worth to each, that creates opportunities for each to mature into independence and then gradually into interdependence? Could synergy not create a new script for the next generation — one that is more geared to service and contribution, and is less protective, less adversarial, less selfish; one that is more open, more giving, and is less defensive, protective, and political; one that is more loving, more caring, and is less possessive and judgmental?
You’re not sure when you engage in synergistic communication how things will work out or what the end will look like, but you do have an inward sense of excitement and security and adventure, believing that it will be significantly better than it was before. And that is the end that you have in mind.
You begin with the belief that parties involved will gain more insight, and that the excitement of that mutual learning and insight will create a momentum toward more and more insights, learning, and growth.
Many people have not really experienced even a moderate degree of synergy in their family life or in other interactions. They’ve been trained and scripted into defensive and protective communications or into believing that life or other people can’t be trusted.
This represents one of the great tragedies and wastes in life because so much potential remains untapped — completely undeveloped and unused. Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives.
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.
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. But it requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.
Almost all creative endeavors are somewhat unpredictable. They often seem ambiguous, hit-or-miss, trial, and error. And unless people have a high tolerance for ambiguity and get their security from integrity to principles and inner values they find it unnerving and unpleasant to be involved in highly creative enterprises. Their need for structure, certainty, and predictability is too high.
Synergy in the Classroom
Synergy tests whether teachers and students are really open to the principle of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
There are times when neither the teacher nor the student knows for sure what’s going to happen. In the beginning, there’s a safe environment that enables people to be really open and to learn and to listen to each other’s ideas. Then comes brainstorming where the spirit of evaluation is subordinated to the spirit of creativity, imagining, and intellectual networking. Then an absolutely unusual phenomenon begins to take place. The entire class is transformed with the excitement of a new thrust, a new idea, a new direction that’s hard to define, yet it’s almost palpable to the people involved.
Synergy is almost as if a group collectively agrees to subordinate old scripts and to write a new one.
It’s like administrators who set up new rules and regulations based on the abuses of a few people inside an organization, thus limiting the freedom and creative possibilities for many — or business partners who imagine the worst scenarios possible and write them up in legal language, killing the whole spirit of creativity, enterprise, and synergistic possibility.
As Carl Rogers taught, “That which is most personal is most general.” The more authentic you become, the more genuine in your expression, particularly regarding personal experiences and even self-doubts, the more people can relate to your expression and the safer it makes them feel to express themselves. That expression in turn feeds back on the other person’s spirit, and genuine creative empathy takes place, producing new insights and learnings and a sense of excitement and adventure that keeps the process going.
People then begin to interact with each other almost in half sentences, sometimes incoherently, but they get each other’s meanings very rapidly. Then whole new worlds of insights, new perspectives, new paradigms that insure options, new alternatives are opened up and thought about. Though occasionally these new ideas are left up in the air, they usually come to some kind of closure that is practical and useful.
Synergy in Business
One particularly meaningful synergistic experience was when we worked with associates to create the corporate mission statement for our business. Almost all members of the company went high up into the mountains were surrounded by the magnificence of nature, we began with a first draft of what some of us considered to be an excellent mission statement.