What is Synergy?

It is a question that usually comes up in my workshops, especially when we discuss the 7 Habits since Stephen Covey states the 6th Habit as synergize (synergise). So what is synergy? The well-known definition is that synergy is what you get when the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Synergy is when you make one plus one equal three or four or five or more. Of course, we are not speaking about mathematics, just expressing the idea by using numbers. It is a mathematical impossibility for one plus one to equal more than two. I appreciate that, if we were to continue down this route, we would need to get more specific with regard to what base numbering system we are talking about, but that’s a step too far for this post.

Synergy is … well, I thought we might take a look at some examples:

Lennon and McCartney

Synergy is what happens when you put John Lennon with Paul McCartney and you get The Beatles

The magic between Lennon and McCartney was not just in the writing, but also in the performing. They were a perfect complement to each other. Without Lennon, Paul would have probably been in another popular band, but he would have been remembered for the kind of melodious rubbish he can so easily churn out in between those stunning classics like The Long and Winding Road, Maybe I’m Amazed and Yesterday. Without McCartney, John would also have probably been successful, but he would have been mainly producing American copy-cat rock and roll. It was the blend of those influences gave us the music of The Beatles.

Clough and Taylor

Synergy is when you combine Brian Clough with Peter Taylor and you get the European Champions …

I remember running a workshop once at Derby County’s ground in the conference facility. As you ascend the stairs, there is a massive picture of Brian Clough in his younger days. It takes up an entire wall, over three floors. At the bottom of the picture it has this quote, “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, but I was definitely in the top one.” You may not like his apparent arrogance – that’s probably what cost him the opportunity to manage England – but you cannot help but admire what Clough and Taylor achieved, not only at Derby County but also with Nottingham Forest who became European Champions for two seasons running.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Synergy is what happens when Fred Astaire Partners Ginger Rogers …

Famously, following his screen test, Fred was reported to be someone who, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” According to Fred, when they first got together, Ginger had never before danced with a partner. He said that although she couldn’t tap and she couldn’t do other things, she had style and she improved as they went along. “After a while” he said, “everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.” That partnership went on to revolutionise an entire movie genre.

And that’s synergy!

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