01-One Plus One Equals One Million

One Plus One Equals One Million

pencilIn this sub-unit we deal with the principle of synergy which is very important for building and maintaining teams. Synergy is the motor for building any kind of group or team. It’s something that glues people to each other.


  • What is synergy?
  • What is Team Creativity?
  • The power of synergistic teams
  • Solution-focus as a major synergy motor
  • The difficult transition: from small teams to large teams

What is Synergy?

Dr. Covey stresses in his Seven Habits the principle of synergy. He is to my knowledge the first human skill trainer who emphasizes this principle with such conviction. However, the principle of synergy is neither new nor something unusual. It is a very commonly experienced fact of life. Of course, as often is the case, the things that we consider natural are not reflected upon. We do not build up theories when we experience a great evening in the opera or after having had a successful house party; we do not make fuss about a nice talk with friends when having a glass together; neither do we write articles about a job meeting that really was a nice moment to pass since all participants seemed to respond easily and voluntarily to each other.

And yet, all these experiences are moments of synergy! What then is synergy? As I have pointed out earlier, synergy is a melting of energies, something that comes about rather spontaneously but which can be prepared by working on our relationship skills and by doing our inner work first.

Synergy is sometimes expressed with a mathematical formula like One plus one equals three. This formula expresses the fact that the result of a synergistically created product is more than its parts. However, I go a bit farther and pretend that one plus one equals one million. The 2+ phenomenon is not just 3. I mean that the surplus true synergy creates over just putting two heads together is much much more than one. It’s up to one million.

There are lots of examples for this fact in the world.

A large and wonderfully successful company like Microsoft® Corporation could not have been built if Bill Gates had said: Well, I’ll do this stuff alone since most people won’t understand or are not trustworthy. Furthermore, I fear they’ll steal my fantastic ideas. Do you think Bill Gates would be where he is today if he had thought that? I’m sure he wouldn’t. Bill Gates’ genius was not just to have had the idea that the new personal computers needed appropriate software, and this on a large, a mass and global scale, but he was smart enough choosing the right people, the most gifted, talented, intelligent and hard-working people to help him build his empire. And he comforted his people, he chose them very carefully and once he had hired them, he offered them superior work conditions and first of all: a warm and creative work atmosphere in small and later on in large teams.

And if you take Microsoft® as an example, you really can say that one plus one equals one million, even more: one billion, and still more…

What is Team Creativity?

The word Team Creativity or CreaTEAMity is one of my creations. It is a composition from

Creative + Team + Activity

Creative Team Activity is possible only in teams that function on the basis of synergy. There are many teams around, and you may know as many of them as I do that are not synergistic. Why?

I think it’s worthwhile to really find out about this. Because if we do know the answer to this we’ll have found the key to the know-how for creating synergistic teams. So please, let’s begin.

Before I continue, I would like to invite you again to become interactive and give your feedback. This time I facilitate the task a little giving you a multiple choice. You can make several choices at the same time.

The answers are given on a separate page so that you can’t see them right now. Please check them out after completing the test. (Please don’t just check all the boxes as there are ‘trap answers’ in between).

Let’s begin.

Situations and circumstances that are detrimental for Team Creativity

The team leader organizes the team in a way that there is harsh competition between the team members.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

There is one team member who secretly plays the spy for the boss.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team meets only once per week for a discussion group.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team is suddenly enlarged by new staff that the company has hired.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The members of the team do not know the names of their colleagues’ spouses or children.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team interacts only via company e-mail. Besides that, the direction does not like people talking to each other on the work place.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team meets two times per week in the gym and one time per week for a volleyball game.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team leader suddenly changed. The new team leader does not know the names of all the team members.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

There is one person in the team who always contradicts.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team suddenly blocks in discussions or meetings with other teams.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

When the team members were asked to admit a new team member to a shared social activity, they refused because the new one came from a culture they disliked.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team members don’t say Good Bye to each other when they leave the company in the evening.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The president director of the company is a good personal friend of one of the team members.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The team leader is authoritarian. He just wants the team members to listen to him and then carry out his orders.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

One of the team members is a genius. He often comes up with ideas that question the traditional way of doing things.

Detrimental  Not Detrimental

The Power of Synergistic Teams

What is this power I’m talking about? It is the power of the formula one plus one equals one million. It is the power of cooperation that is highly effective. You can put it also in the following terms:

Deal creatively with problems instead of creating problems.

In the synergistically functioning team every team member gets easily feedback from others about

  • his or her self-vision
  • his or her vision of others
  • if his or her vision is in accordance with universal laws

This can help tremendously to gradually build the right vision, the vision that is profound, sound and far-reaching.

Once we find out that our way of doing was wrong, we can analyze why this was so. The team will help us to get the necessary feedback. Our way of doing can have been wrong because

  • it was not sufficiently adapted to the circumstances
  • it followed an outdated paradigm
  • it was generally not working

This will enable us to establish new ways of doing things.

You may argue that all that is also possible individually.

Why should a team be so tremendously different? This is so because the feedback possibilities are much enlarged within a team. The result is you will get the feedback that something is wrong or something is going to be wrong much earlier than if you are working on yourself and have to give that feedback to yourself as an insight in your mistake. There is a large difference in effectiveness.

Solution Focus As a Major Synergy Motor

Solution focus really is a key to team success! There is no better way to channel the team’s positive energy and to enhance that energy. Directing the attention of several people on one and only one task delivers powerful new results. Every leader knows this secret! And yet it’s easier to say than to do. If one has already difficulties with oneself to get focused on a task or a goal in life, how does one want to get to focus others’ attention to it?

It means that the team leader must have the basic skill to focus his energies on single tasks and to carry them out successfully. He must have team qualities within himself. Let me again recall parts of our first training unit. I relate the truth we learned in Unit One now under a different perspective, the perspective of the team leader.

We can use the inner dialogue to build and train teambuilding skills. We do this in building and training our inner team. How can we organize our interactions in order to profit of their energies for the development of our team?

The answer is that we must identify our inner voices, personalize them and build our inner team. Once we master inner teamwork and all our inner team members cooperate with us for the solution of one common task, we will also be more skillful in relating outwardly in a team and understand the power of teambuilding and creative teamwork.

In this process, our inner child is the most important inner entity, simply because this inner child is among our inner entities the most repressed one, the one we disintegrated most. The child in us is the source of our creativity, it is the little genius in us, but also the little clown. It is always active when we want to do something extravagant, something new and original or simply different than we did before.

The child in us carries us to new solutions, to new horizons, to new feelings and perceptions, to new experiences. Get connected to your inner child and find new and creative solutions to all your problems!

The Difficult Transition: From Small to Large Teams

It is a well-known fact that teams have difficulties to pass from a small scale to a large scale setup.

We’ve already shortly discussed the problem of enlarging the team and found that it was not per se endangering the team. However, in practice there are many factors involved that can undermine the team’s basic synergy. In larger teams there are more built-in stress factors than in small teams. The danger is a general loss in communication or a communication that becomes superficial so that basic emotional values are not any more communicated. This means empathic communication will get lost and with it one of the strongest building stones of synergy.

There are not many companies who have mastered the delicate transition from small highly effective teams to large yet still effective teams as well and as creatively as Microsoft Corporation. Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby relate in their book Microsoft Secrets, New York: Free Press, 1995 that Microsoft is a young company in the sense that it has achieved to uphold a basically new and modern paradigm which is: Making large teams work like small teams.

Source: Cusumano, Selby, Microsoft Secrets, op.cit., p. 409.

Furthermore, the authors enumerate seven vital points that are responsible for Microsoft’s success in making large teams work like small teams:

Project Size and Scope Limits

  • Divisible product architectures
  • Small-team structure and management
  • A few rigid rules to force coordination and synchronization
  • Good communications within and across functions and teams
  • Product-process flexibility to accommodate the unknown

Source: Cusumo, Selby, Microsoft Secrets, op.cit, p. 410.

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