I often ask the participants in my seminars if they understand what it means to say “synergy.” Based on the makeup of members of my group, I received different responses. Most people claim to know about the term and have heard the word as well as it has something to be related to teams and teamwork. However, trying to get the definition into a more precise form is futile. The majority of people are aware that synergy is an essential component of teams. It makes them better teams. However, what exactly it is and how it can help enhance teams is usually an unanswered question. It’s just one of the things that are.
Synergy is a term used to describe synergy.
The best definition I’ve seen (and the definition was written so many years ago, the source is now forgotten in the mists history) is this one “synergy is when one plus one equals three.” Yes, I’m not a maths-challenged fool! However, when you consider the following definition, it starts to make more sense “it is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Also, it is when a group can produce more than the individual’s efforts when they are working independently.
I came across (again, but so long ago it’s gone missing in the shuffle of) an excellent article about an approach of scientists to test synergy. I’m not sure whether the article was factual or not or not, but it’s a good idea. The story is excellent and is a great illustration of my argument. In case anyone has any idea where this story came from, please email me the details. I’d love to know the source of this fantastic story.
A group made up of Clydesdale horses (those massive beasts sporting big manes and flowing hooves) was utilized to test synergy theories on the British Isles. Each horse was tied to several barrels and then tested to see its weight could be pulled. Their individual results were noted as well as the total weight. After that, the team tied together, and the procedure was repeated. The weight of the barrels that the team pulled was recorded. Then comes the synergistic effect. The team’s weight was 25% higher than the weight that the horses had pulled individually earlier (surprise and surprise). Since this is all about the “one plus one = three” principle, You must have thought that the outcome would be similar to this!
It should be a solid team.
The thing that is interesting to consider is that the group of horses utilized was one that was an “intact” team. It means they’d pulled things together for quite a while. They were familiar with each other. They were able to trust each other. They had a habit of working together. They were, as a matter of fact, it was a team, not just a bunch of horses tied together.
This is a crucial issue. Actually, it’s the most important point. A team is much more than an individual group. The team has experienced various steps or phases that have made it an effective and synergistic group. I’ve never seen any other tests similar to the Clydesdale one, but I’d wager my money on that if a team made up of strangers (i.e., horses that aren’t experienced in working in a team) were used, and the results wouldn’t be as impressive.
This can be applied to teams working together.
The same is true for human teams. Synergy is the key element that transforms groups into a “team.” The coaches of sports know this. They invest as much time developing trust, respect, and co-dependency as well as positive relationships as they do in their sports abilities. We’ve all heard of the champion team getting beat by the champions, who are underdogs (it’s the most iconic Aussie incident).
When you next review your team, consider this question. “Do we achieve more as a team than we would as individuals?” If not, then the team hasn’t reached the point of synergy that is essential for it to become an elite team.