Do You Have the Synergistic Advantage?

Whatever new business books or articles you read today, the word ADVANTAGE is looming somewhere in the text. We hear a lot about competitive advantage. I just read an article on collaborative advantage. So, here comes one more—synergistic advantage.

For the past nineteen years, I have been working with groups to help them identify and build team synergy. In a recent workshop one participant asked, “define the word synergy.” According to Webster, synergy is defined as a combined action or operation. My definition of synergy is this—differences in how people operate need to exist, yet each person must be able to understand and manage those differences to build on them. When this occurs, the interdependent result is greater than the individual results. Or, in other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

My husband, Chris, and I have some “dramatic” differences in the way we operate. We have been married over twenty-five years. Through the use of the Kolbe A™ Index, we have developed a better understanding of these differences. We have learned how to capitalize and build on them rather than let them form wedges between us. We have a synergistic advantage. Here is an example of how we put that advantage to work.

The landscaping around our home has quite a few barked areas. I’m not counting, but one Saturday ten yards of bark were piled high in the driveway. The conventional male/female roles would indicate that Chris (male) should shovel and haul it, and Mari (female) should spread and manicure it. Well, we started out that way, because “what would the neighbors think!” Soon, very soon into the project, I lost interest. The basic fact is—I can commit more mental energy to jobs that require physical effort, stamina and endurance than can Chris. He, on the other hand, can commit more mental energy to efforts that require detail, style, design and precision.

What happened next was amazing! We switched jobs and immediately sensed an elevation of energy and commitment to the project. I created a sense of urgency to pile the wheelbarrow high and deliver him the loads, and he meticulously layered the bark with style and precision. He had commitment and I had commitment. We had more bark laid by noon than we ever thought possible.

The bark project can be compared to any project we encounter in our “real work.” The authors of the article, Toward a Career-Resilient Workforce, published recently in Harvard Business Review, put it so eloquently, “unless individuals understand the environments that let them shine, the interest that ignite them, and the skills that help them excel, how can they choose a company or job where they can make their greatest contribution?” When we commit to identifying those environments, interests and skills in each employee, we have purely and simply gained an ADVANTAGE!

The above article, “Do You Have the Synergistic Advantage”, was originally published in the Summer, 1994 edition of “Breakthroughs in Performance”— a newsletter published by PSG. The author is Mari Martin..