Synergy makes the garden grow.

Synergy makes the garden grow.

Habit Six:  Synergize

The sixth habit is synergy.  Synergy is present when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  For example, data from University of Texas suggests that in some cases pair programming yields a higher productivity than two coders working separately. The probable reason for this outcome is identification of new ideas, close communication and continuous review.  Covey suggests that the habit of synergy, which builds on the knowledge derived from implementing the previous habits combined with creativity, is the highest activity of life. Put another way, combining empathy, win-win thinking, being proactive while thinking outside the box generates alternatives!

The power of synergy is derived from the creation of new, win-win alternatives.  Covey provides examples of synergy across many categories of life such as communication, business, nature and the classroom. An example of creative cooperation from nature can be seen in the relationship between basil and tomatoes.  Organic gardeners know that basil suppresses insects that affect tomatoes. The tomatoes, in return, change the soil composition so the basil grows better.  The downside to synergistic creativity is that it is unpredictable and messy. Finding this combination plants required experimentation and failures before the perfect companion plants were discovered.

Experimentation with the attendant potential for failure does not suit all teams or organizations. Organizations that fear the potential for failure will seen seek certainty. Organizations and teams that have a need for structure, certainty and predictability will generally resist the unpredictability and messiness of creativity. The resistance is reflective of a lack of trust, which suppresses the win-win communication needed for creativity and synergy. Interactions reflecting low trust and low cooperation generate communication focused on win-lose outcomes.  Many, if not most, outsourcing contracts are low trust/low cooperation interactions, and therefore require lawyers and negotiators to communicate.  On the other hand, high trust/high cooperation environments provide the basis where structure, certainty and predictability can be offset by empathy and a belief that the outcome will be positive and might exceed expectations. Mature Agile teams that exhibit high customer satisfaction generally are a reflection of high trust and high cooperation environments.

Understanding and practicing the first five habits provide an environment that can overcome the forces that restrain creativity.  Creativity is a requirement for creating alternatives to the tried and true, which is where we can find synergy from being interdependent.

Links to the First Five Habits: