2 + 2 = 5

In college, you’re supposed to learn advanced math skills, and in your classes they will tell you that 2 + 2 = 4. But in business, and in life, 1 + 1 can sometimes equal 3, and 2 + 2 can sometimes equal 5. This is the concept of SYNERGY.

Synergy is the idea that when you combine two elements, the result is greater than each component part could have been on its own. The little extra created through synergy is a result of working together and benefiting from diverse talents and perspectives. You can apply the concept of synergy to essentially anything, but it is most relevant for college students in group assignments.

Often, in a group project, synergy does not take place. This can happen for a multitude of reasons. It could be that one group member acts as a control freak or micromanager and takes most of the responsibility for themselves. It could be that a few members slack off and don’t really care about the assignment. It could also be that members are assigned to tasks they do not enjoy, or have no talent for.

What are the benefits of creating a synergistic environment, and what can we do to foster such an environment?

The benefits of synergy can be vast! The object is to break up a project into small, specialized tasks, and then match each contributor’s skills and passions to the appropriate task. When you do this, everyone benefits, and the group will perform far better than if each person had tried to do the project alone.

Teachers assign group work because it is a challenge to get people to work together. Creating synergy is not an easy task. It takes effort to discover what skills others possess and get them excited about contributing to the project. The keys to fostering an environment in which people can perform at their best are:

1. Identify others’ skills and passions and assign tasks that complement their core competencies

2. Get your team motivated about achieving a common goal with clear results and rewards

3. Set a specific timeline for each task and the overall goal

4. Let others know how their individual contribution directly affects the success of the team

5. Keep each person accountable for their activity

The idea of “two heads are better than one” (or three heads are better than two) is what synergy is all about. This can only work in a controlled environment. We’ve all experienced occasions on which more people do not lead to better ideas or greater productivity. These five steps are a simple outline to keep everyone in your team on track, motivated, and accountable.

Everyone has had a bad experience with group work. What went wrong in your team? Was one of these five steps missing? It is difficult to explain until you experience it, but the power of 2 + 2 = 5 can change your entire life, and how you think about leadership and delegation.

Although I don’t recommend correcting your math teachers, I hope you will agree that sometimes 2 + 2 really does equal 5! What will you do next time you are in a group to promote synergy?

Kelli Lampkin

Kelli Lampkin is a writer, traveler, comedienne, and entrepreneur.

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