Synergy is very much like Table salt

by Marguerite Granat on March 28, 2011

Post image for Synergy is very much like Table salt

I was so excited when I found out that Bucky (Buckminster Fuller’s nickname) had taught at my Alma mater. He was one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century as well as a philosopher, designer and scientist. Bucky invented the word “Synergy” and has influenced great leaders such as Peter Senge  as well as continuing to surprise the world with his past insights and predictions.

What is Synergy?

Bucky defined it as:

  • A dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the difference of individual component actions
  • Behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately
  • Cooperative action of two or more stimuli, resulting in a different or greater response from that of the individual stimuli

I had no idea that Buckminster Fuller had come up with this word since it has become so common. Peter Senge, is inspired by Bucky’s ideas in one of his recent books  Presence  by  saying that:

We tend to focus on the parts rather than seeing the whole, and to fail to see organization as a dynamic process.

Nature has a way to make everything make sense. The next time you sprinkle salt on your plate know that if you take the two ingredients in salt separately you have a poisonous gas and an explosive metal that when combined produce a harmless spice.

You’re probably wondering what does all this have to do with solving organizational problems. Salt has everything to do with it because the synergy of the two toxic ingredients create the salt.  When we’re looking to solve an organizational problem, rather than looking at the separate parts-look at the whole system because the parts separately do not tell the story of the situation.

Any thoughts?

Photo Credits, Alicia Nijdma

  • Rachelle Dillon

    Thanks Marguerite for another thought provoking and informative post. Now I can use the word synergy properly. Also your blog brought the concept of synergy to my awareness along with the idea that something can be more or totally different than the sum of it’s parts, given the proper chemistry. If only organizational synergy was as stable and predictable as salt….

  • Marguerite Granat

    You’re right Rachelle that organizational synergy will never be as stable and predictable as salt since organizations are continously changing and regenerating themselves.

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