Friday, December 9, 2022

The Sixth of the Seven Habits of Effective People: Synergy

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Synergy—getting extra performed and feeling by working collectively—is a uncommon expertise, however it’s additionally mandatory for actual success. It is tough to make it occur and maintain it. Let’s discover ways to synergize!

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Sid Kemp is a enterprise marketing consultant and writer of 10 books on undertaking administration and enterprise success.

The solo violinist and the orchestra create concord and distinction: Synergy.

By Zereshk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (http://

What Is Synergy, and Why Is It Necessary for Real Success in Business?

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What the heck is synergy?

It is the wonderful things that can be done by a group that cannot be done alone.

Alone, a man or a woman can live, at most, about a hundred years. Together, men and women create a species that lives for millions of years.

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A person, alone, can sing. A person with a musical instrument can drum, or play flute, or play harp, and create harmony in so many ways. A group of people with voices and musical instruments can form a choir, a symphony orchestra, a rock band. They can follow a score, or jazz it up with improvisation.

A writer, alone, can write a novel. But he needs readers. And if a producer, a director, a cast and crew come along, the novel can become a movie.

All great human achievements come about through synergy, or, to be more precise, positive synergy.

Positive and Negative Synergy

Above, I evoked the wonders of positive synergy.

But there is also negative synergy. Two angry men get into a fistfight. When we get together in groups and allow government to direct our thinking, those two angry men can launch a war that kills millions. And there are many other kinds of cultural and systemic oppression, prejudice, and hatred that last for decades, centuries, millennia.

And this also works on a smaller scale. A happy marriage is a wonderful thing. A miserable marriage can feel like an inescapable trap. A good business partnership flourishes. Many business efforts fall into a mess, dragging good people and good talent with them.

As the late Stephen Covey discusses in Habit 6 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, positive synergy is what it is all about, but it is incredibly difficult to achieve and sustain. Negative synergy is what we are stuck with when we try for positive, and it doesn’t work.

What’s the trap? And how do we get unstuck?

An Example of Synergy in Practice

A great example of synergy from about 10 years ago was Peter Jackson’s production of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He made 3 movies in 15 months with a team of about 350 people. Everyone contributed tremendous creativity and passion.

Two artists who had spent their lives drawing and painting images of Tolkien’s Middle Earth designed the sets. Dozens of others turned those images into real full-sized sets, huge miniatures for filming, and computer-generated (CG) graphics.

There was a team for costume design and creation. There was even one guy who spent three years making chain mail for orcs (goblins) out of slices of rubber hose. He wore the fingerprints off his fingers manually linking the loops together to build hundreds of suits of rubber chain mail.

Every single aspect of the movie was approved by Peter Jackson at every stage. For example, he suggested the design of the Nazgul, a Pterodactyl-like evil flying monster. An artist made drawings; Jackson made suggestions; the artist made changes; Jackson approved the drawings. A modeler worked the drawings into 3D models, and Jackson again suggested, allowed revision, and approved. Then the CG team took over, using computers to bring the Nazgul to life. And Peter Jackson approved the final product.

Each department had an “approved by Peter Jackson” rubber stamp. He could move quickly from team to team, getting people started, leaving them alone to be creative, approving their work, and leaving them alone again.

The production team for The Lord of the Rings was more than a well-oiled machines. It was creative and productive people at their best, working long hours for 15 months, to translate the most inspiring literature of the 20th century into the first great movies of the 21st.

Watch this behind-the-scenes movie of Peter Jackson’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, for a feeling of how the cast and crew live and work together.

Energy and Synergy

The Power Inherent in Synergy

We really begin to understand the 7 Habits when we think about how much energy we have in life, and how much energy we put into what we do.

How much life energy goes into creating a great symphony orchestra, maintaining it for a century, and creating, playing, and enjoying all that music? How much joyful power is there?

How much life energy goes into creating, selling, and using addictive drugs? How much waste of human life is there?

Positive synergy is what we get when parts work together as a whole. Picture an 18-wheeler carrying 50,000 pounds of goods across the country.

Negative synergy is what happens when the same parts don’t work well together. Imagine the truck engine seizing, the truck jackknifing, people dying.

There are two key points here:

  • The more parts to the system, the more ways it can go wrong. A truck requires more precision engineering and better driving than a car.
  • The more energy in a system, the worse damage when it does go wrong. When a truck flips over, there’s a lot more destruction than when a car loses control.

And how much the more so if we think about an airplane. How much more capability for wonder. How much easier – and more disastrous – if it crashes.

What Prevents Synergy

The damage is not just in accidents. As people, we tend to trap ourselves in unhealthy habits, damaging relationships, and destructive social patterns. Then the excess energy of the system hurts people, and goes on hurting and hurting. Some of the hurting shows up as obvious destruction, such as the million or so people who die each year in car crashes worldwide. Some of it shows up more subtly, in the lost creativity and joy, for example, for both men and women, through sexual stereotyping and the limiting of human potential based on bias and prejudice.

Take a look around us: How easy it is to do harm. How challenging it is to create lasting beauty and wonder, health, joy, and peace.

But we can.

The Gift and Challenge of Synergy (With Simon & Garfunkel as an Example)

For me, Simon & Garfunkel are an excellent example of positive synergy, including how difficult it is to do. Each of them, alone, is an excellent musician. But when they work together, something much greater comes into being. Listen to Scarborough Fair on YouTube and consider these points of synergy:

  • Together, two voices produce a harmony that you don’t get from one. But watch the video closely. Note how deeply concentrated each of them is, shaping each sound with his mouth, listening to the other, tuning into the song. Harmony takes work!
  • This version, Scarborough Fair / Canticle blends two songs to create a whole new message.
  • It is hard to achieve synergy between two masters. They broke up twice because they couldn’t agree on all the details of the music they wanted to produce.
  • When it works, it changes the world. Two of Simon & Garfunkel’s reunion concerts, including the one in Central Park above, were two of the ten largest musical concerts of all time. And many of their songs, like The Sound of Silence, inspired the transformational thinking of the 1960s, well worth remembering now.

Creating synergy is almost as difficult as “finding me an acre of land . . . between salt water and the sea strand” making “a cambric shirt . . . with no seam or needlework” but it’s worth the effort. We yearn for synergy like we yearn for true love. In fact, true love is the ultimate in positive synergy.

Positive or Negative Synergy: What Makes the Difference?

If you’ve come with me this far in looking at being an effective person through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you see how incredibly valuable it would be if we could create positive synergy and not negative synergy.

How do we do it?

The answer is going to sound incredibly simple. We can do it, but not directly. Synergy is a gift, a result, of living the other 6 habits. Positive synergy arises when we live the other 6 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 7 Habits are the machinery of effectiveness, and positive synergy is the gift of a well-run machine. But when that machine or system includes human gifts, it is so much more than a machine. All great humanitarian and artistic ventures and adventures arise from the gift of people working in synergy.

To create positive synergy, we must:

  • Live the 7 Habits as consistently as we can.
  • Be honest about our weaknesses, and work to get better.
  • Say “no” to anything that is not true synergy, that is, stick to the “no deal” of win/win or no deal.

I picture myself as a race car driver. I want to race, but only with an excellent pit crew in a safe, well-tuned machine. I want the power of creative success with the minimum risk of an accident.

Negative synergy is the result of a poorly run machine, system, or relationship. When we falter in any one of the other six habits, our positive synergy comes crashing down. See Table #1 for an example in a small business, and Table #2 for an example in a marriage.

Table #1: Business Habit Failures Leading to Synergy Failures

Table #2: Marriage Habit Failures Leading to Synergy Failures

All 7 Habits – a Lot to Do!

Of course, living all 7 Habits to achieve and maintain synergy only sounds simple if you’ve studied each of them in depth, and put each of them into practice, then you’ve dis-assembled your entire life and rebuilt your entire life from the inside out.

So, in a way, living the 7 Habits is like stripping down an old car and turning it into a classic race car. Only you’re the car!

Habit change is a process of awareness, diagnosis, and repair.

What makes it so hard?

Well, wouldn’t it be hard to repair a classic race car while you’re driving it down the road?

Truly learning the 7 Habits takes years. I’ve been at it for 17 years, and I’m still growing with it. Indeed, I think it is the journey of a lifetime.

How do we keep improving our habits, developing our character, and transforming ourselves while making life work day-to-day?

That’s what Habit 7: Self-renewal, is all about.

Jazz improvisation is a whole different world of synergy. Look at how the musicians tune into – and play off of – one another!

Held by John Oxley Library, Author Unknown [Public domain], through Wikimedia Commons

This article is correct and true to the greatest of the writer’s data. Content is for informational or leisure functions solely and doesn’t substitute for private counsel or skilled recommendation in enterprise, monetary, authorized, or technical issues.


large daddy on May 12, 2016:


Sid Kemp (writer) from Boca Raton, Florida (close to Miami and Palm Beach) on September 24, 2012:

Clearly, the extra impartial intelligences working in a system, the extra complicated the system, and the tougher to create and preserve optimistic synergy. This is definitely addressed in the area of undertaking administration. Uniting creativity, therapeutic, and undertaking administration appears to be what my life is all about.

visionandfocus from North York, Canada on September 21, 2012:

We all are on completely different life-paths and there is no pushing or shoving or holding one another again. If our lives occur to cross at a time after we’re at an analogous stage of progress, then fantastic synergistic issues may occur. Great bands come to thoughts, or marriages, however when you get to greater enterprises, there’s extra probability for issues to crumble. Perhaps measurement and complexity actually are inversely associated to the chance of synergy. Think about governments, for example. *wry smile*

Sid Kemp (writer) from Boca Raton, Florida (close to Miami and Palm Beach) on July 27, 2012:

Yes, McGilwriter, you’re so proper. John Gardner mentioned that literature and artwork are efforts to share our personal goals in order that they turn into the goals of others. But, even is we’re prepared to try this, what number of others are actually able to dream their very own goals, personal their very own goals, and likewise obtain ours?

McGilwriter from Florida on July 26, 2012:

Synergy is a superb however elusive factor. It’s really easy to work alone. You know what you need and you realize your last out come. You know what high quality you anticipate, and the street to get there. When others enter your world, they must be taught and guided to study your imaginative and prescient! Communicating to others your imaginative and prescient is the place synergy breaks down for thus many individuals!

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