Most folks working in business, engineering or innovation have heard of synergy and can likely muster up a shorthand definition:
- Greek: sun + ergos = to work together with
- 2 + 2 = 5
- The whole is greater than the sum of the parts
Synergy is typically thought of as occurring when 2 or more individuals share their unique knowledge, skills and perspectives when facing a common problem or challenge. The connecting together of two or more ideas often leads to a flash of insight that conceives a unique hybrid solution that is superior to any of its building blocks.
I had an interesting solo experience with the power of connected ideas a few nights ago; one of those 2 AM Aha! moments in which 4 separate problems/decisions that I had been pondering earlier in the day came together to form a blended solution. The problem areas seemed totally disconnected:
- Future value chain strategy/business model for our company
- Method to incentivize our team to increase their already awesome level of performance
- Rationalize our company cost structure (employee mix)
- Future architecture of our software platform (and its evolutionary roadmap)
Without going into the “top secret” details, I awoke with a new business model concept that could offer great new incentives to my team members, pull in new blood (younger, also less expensive resources) and accelerate the evolution of our platform. The core idea came in a flood; I had to get up and write as fast as I could to elaborate the details. The whole process took less than an hour and led to an almost fully-formed strategic scenario for the company.
I think (no proof, just intuition) that the fact that I live and breath decision patterns helps my aging brain make faster and more innovative connections than I could in my 20’s when my mental model of situations was a blank slate. My hypothesis is that a well-framed problem/decision statement is the key to rapid and efficient ideation and facilitates the connections/synergies between multiple decisions. I can close my eyes and place each of the four problems that I was considering within a decision pattern and visualize their parent, sibling and child decisions; that seems to foster the ability to integrate them into a holistic solution without much conscious effort.
I’m not foolish enough to believe that I should bet the farm on this future scenario; I’ve had Aha! moments that have become “Oh my!” conclusions under the bright lights of more rigorous testing and evaluation. But I can quickly map this scenario to a Decision Breakdown Structure (DBS) and use the DBS as an evaluation framework to uncover weaknesses before committing resources to “make it so”.
I’m writing this in the calm before the storm; we’ll soon have 20 folks together for our family Christmas celebration, including 6 rowdy grandsons aged 2-12. If Thanksgiving was any indication, there will be lots of opportunities for synergy as rapidly-changing clusters of family members group together for various activities (food, fireplace chats, ping pong, presents, etc.). I learned long ago not to try to orchestrate such gatherings with top-down control, so we’ll just let it flow. Synergy can fun!
I hope your Christmas celebrations are equally blessed.