Book Summaries Business Productivity Psychology

Habit 6: Synergy (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)


Synergy happens when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A man and a woman can create a child, a programmer and marketer can create a company, and basketball players can create a winning team through synergy.

The problem is that life experiences teach us to have an aversion to synergy. A negative experience in the past will erode our trust in people, and we lose our spirit of adventure. Or we can only recall brief moments of synergy in our lives, and these occurred in emergency situations, or while we were playing a sport, but this synergy was never consistent enough for us to depend on it.

To recover that spirit of adventure, and to trust others more, we should be secure and willing to tolerate the unknown. Any highly creative experience will be threatening if our principles are not well-defined, and we don’t our trust ourselves enough. Most people are addicted to structure and certainty, but having this attitude for too long can severely limit our potential.

Synergy requires taking a risk with people.

Our experiences with others either were synergistic or chaotic. We tend to remember the failures much more strongly, and this will haunt us in all future endeavors. But if we are more authentic and genuine, if we clearly articulate our doubts to others, then people will find us more relatable and they will that they can safely express their own concerns. This results in mutual understanding.


After the second World War, David Lilienthal was appointed head of the new Atomic Energy Commission. He brought a group of very influential people with very different backgrounds. Each of them had a heavy agenda, and the press was applying pressure. The Emotional Bank account took weeks to build, but in the end, Lilienthal managed to facilitate deep bonds between people. When they disagreed, they committed to understanding these differences, to expand their frames of reference.

Negative Synergy

There are many ways communication can backfire, and it has a lot to do with intent. If someone is talking win-win, but is trying to cleverly manipulate others, he will fail. If someone is too dependent on the approval of others, he will fall into the lose-win framework, and if he feels empowered by his position, he may opt for win-lose. These methods will never foster group trust. Instead, they will make the possibility of Synergy far less likely.

Is it logical that two people can disagree and that both can be right? It’s not logical: it’s psychological. And it’s very real. You see the young lady; I see the old woman. We’re both looking at the same picture, and both of us are right. We see the same black lines, the same white spaces. But we interpret them differently because we’ve been conditioned to interpret them differently.

"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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