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Synergy and new creation

Principles of Creative Cooperation

Sixth habit – synergy

Synergy is about working together. The Greek word “syn” means together and “energeia” means work and we get the word “energy” from there. Working together is the key to getting more force into our actions. It is like how we measure an engine’s power. It is measured by horsepower, which is the number of horses that, pulling together, working together, would produce that much force.

Synergy “means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” (Covey, 1989/2004, p. 274). It refers to a mysterious phenomenon where there seems to be more energy coming out of a system than what was put into it. It seems to violate the first law of thermodynamics or the law of conservation of energy, but it is a reality in human relationships.

How do you achieve synergy – working together in a meaningful way – with someone who is radically different? This is one of the great challenges for many of us.

Habit 3 – “First Things First” – is all about managing oneself. Habit 6 – “Synergize” – is about managing relationships. Habits 4 and 5 help to establish relationships. Habit 6 helps to manage them in such a way as to get more done. This happens through managing differences.

Diversity is a great value in the world today. Seeing it merely as cultural or ethnic diversity is reductive. There is also diversity in the way to see the world. Creating a team with diverse viewpoints can be a tremendous asset. More viewpoints leads to a more complete view of the situation. At the same time, it can be incredibly hard to manage.

To manage it is to make sure the various forces flow in the same direction. Synergy comes about when different interests become aligned and begin pushing or pulling in the same direction. Likeminded individuals can get a lot done. But people who seem at odds but can work together can multiply their force and get even more done.

Manage diversity – build trust – work together

How do we manage diversity? To begin, we have to understand how we are different. What are the things we have in common and what are the things that are different? This can feel uncomfortable, but it is important to understand. Write a list of the characteristics of each person and see what is held in common and what is not. Focus on the differences for a moment. See how they can be leveraged in offering more strength to the relationship. Understanding our differences should lead us to grow in trust.

How do we build trust? Trust is fundamental. But how do we gain trust? We have to remember that it takes time to build trust. One of the negative side-effects about learning about relationships through movies is that they are fictional. I am always amazed about how two people can meet, fall in love, go through some tremendous crisis and separate, then fall in love again for some storybook ending in under 120 minutes. Trust takes time.

Consistency is key. By showing up constantly and doing the right thing, we are able to build up mutual trust. Even before that mutual trust, we have to learn to trust ourselves. “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) We can all be roped into self-doubt. It makes sense, as we are used to dealing with many contingencies. It can make us feel that nothing is absolute. We feel like we have no ground to stand on. Learning to trust ourselves is the basis for mutual trust. By being consistent, we can build up that mutual trust.

A third element to build up synergy is to work together. It sounds redundant, but it is essential. What is the best way to work together? Trial and error is going to be a fundamental strategy to find out how it is going to go. Life is messy, and we cannot predetermine everything that is going to happen.


Covey, S. R. (1989/2004). The seven habits of highly effective people. Powerful lessons in personal change. Simon and Schuster.

Craig, H. (2021). 10 ways to build trust in a relationship. Psychology Today.

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