Last spring I did character training sessions for the local High School football team and used Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as the basis for the sessions. When we got to Habit 6, Synergy, and I was doing my prep work for the session I came to the realization that a major problem today in society is the lack of synergy.

We lack synergy in today’s world because we are worried about “credit” and “winning”. Our need for instant gratification and ‘always on’ society demands satisfaction now. There also exists too much ‘scarcity mentality’ and not enough ‘abundance mentality’. One might say we have an abundance of scarcity mentality and a scarcity of abundance mentality.

In the scarcity mentality mindset one operates that if someone else wins they have to lose; that there is a finite amount of success and that it gets divided up. The expression is “the pie is only so big and I need to get my share so I don’t lose out”. This type of mentality leads to selfish behavior. The abundance mentality operates that the pie continues to grow and the slices get bigger and that everyone can be successful. It is a win-win attitude.

The definition of synergy is the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. In a nutshell, synergy is achieved when two or more people work together to create a better solution than either could alone. It’s not your way or my way but a better way, a higher way.

Words for ‘anti-synergy’ are opposition, aversion, obstruction, counteraction. Which words do we see and hear more often these days? When was the last time both sides of the political spectrum worked together for a better solution that either could have done on their own?

Some people think synergy is just another word for compromise or cooperation. It is not. A good way to look at it is that: Compromise is 1 + 1 = 1 ½; Cooperation is 1 + 1 = 2; Synergy is 1 + 1 = 3! Synergy blows the doors off of results.

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 of the weight held by each separately.
  • In weight lifting, a two joint lift produces more power and greater growth of strength.
  • A good orchestra is individual and diverse instruments coming together to make a sound like no other.
  • Vocal harmony is most moving when it blends and balances the voices of many individuals (think Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young).
  • A good chef mixes ingredients like flour, raw eggs or lard – things that by themselves are unappealing; but properly blended, they become mouth-watering dishes.

In business we have many examples of synergy.

  • Two brother-in-laws candle maker William Procter and soap maker James Gamble merged their business interests in Cincinnati in 1837 to take advantage of like resource needs and production capability
  • Two movie executives, Steven Spielberg & George Lucas, both successful in their own right combined their talents to make Indiana Jones – not only a epic success but because of the synergy of these two men the most cost effective ($10 made for every $1 invested) of all the blockbuster franchises.

History is also full of many nonsynergistic business unions, think K-Mart & Sears, Daimler & Chrysler, HP & Compaq. Synergy just doesn’t happen because you combine things and want it to occur.

The Bible also has synergy. It has 66 different books written by a variety of authors with their own syntax, diction, themes, etc. When all 66 books stand together with one heartbeat we have “unity of scripture” and synergy. If these 66 different books all stood on their own they would not cumulatively have the effect that the Bible has!

Consider the original disciples of Jesus. Jesus recruited specific people for specific reasons. They were expected to contribute something they did well, better than anyone else on the team. He recruited each of them on the basis of their individual strengths. He recruited people who would contribute to the other members of the team and to the team’s overall objectives. Jesus taught his team of individuals to understand, appreciate, and love each other. He began with a group of Galileans – working men, mostly fishermen, all with strong Jewish backgrounds. Then he inexplicably added Matthew, a tax collector and hated publican, to the mix. Jesus also recruited Simon the Zealot, who was at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Matthew. The combination of these individuals exceeded what each was capable of doing.

There is much talk about how to build unity among diverse people.

  • If we go back to the analogy of an orchestra, the orchestra tunes itself before a performance. The oboist plays the concert pitch, then the first violinist plays the note, and the other instruments tune to that pitch. What follows can only be described as a bizarre discord at first. Then it calms down and they’re all tuned to one another by tuning to the same instrument.
  • In sports the head coach serves as concert pitch, tuning everyone to the team’s vision.
  • In life, Jesus is our concert pitch.

For synergy to exist:

  • If the whole is to exceed the sum of its parts, we cannot at the onset diminish any of the elements comprising the whole. We must value those differences.
  • We must focus on the outcome and trust the process like a chef or symphony conductor. If the focus is on the circumstances or components in the process, the vision gets lost.
  • Commitment by all contributors to outcome while staying above the circumstances (not worried about credit, self-pride). In sports we call this “surrender the me for the we.”

People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society. -Vince Lombardi

We live in an individualistic culture, but we are called to be people in relationship. We are not called to be the persons of God but the people of God. We know that in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

So when two or three believers come together God is present, which means the results will be far greater than mere humans can produce.

In Romans 8:28, the original language reads in part, “God works together all things for good to the ones called according to his purpose.” The Greek word translated “work together” is synergeo, from which we get our English word, “synergy.”

About the Author

Bob Mahr answered a calling to combine his experiences as a business leader, a volunteer football coach and a father with his faith to champion and enrich today’s youth.  Bob is a Director of a multi-million dollar division for a National Supply Chain partner; a Volunteer High School Football; an active member of the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Board Member, Campus Huddle Coach and Character Coach; as well as a father of three daughters all becoming citizens in today’s society.  Bob takes his purpose from Luke 12:48 – to whom much has been given, much is expected.