We often tend to get in our own way when it comes to collaborating and building synergy with others. The term synergy, by the way refers to the possibility of a group being far more creative and effective than the sum of individuals that make it up. Many of the assumptions, attitudes, and habits that block synergy from happening naturally are learned one way or another. Wouldn’t it be great if we could clearly name these blocks? This is exactly what I attempt to do in this week’s article, Naming Synergy Blocking Attitudes. Note that these attitudes apply to facilitators and participants alike.
I know that unlearning can at times be even more challenging than learning, so I’m going to keep this installment very simple. Here are three attitudes that I think block synergy from happening in groups. I’ll explain them briefly then offer some unlearning tips.
My thoughts are important. Did this get your attention? I thought it would. We tend to take our thoughts far too personally at times. We attach our identity to them, stake out positions, and defend them with our very lives. How many millions have been slaughtered over adherence to thoughts that shift like the wind?
I need to make sense. We tend to be reluctant to express our observations, insights, and inklings in groups unless they are fully formed, cogent, and logical. We fear looking silly or stupid and therefore resist sharing something we think may not be understood and accepted.
I need to know what’s going to happen. We tend to be afraid of the unknown, of what might happen if. Yet we make up stories that tell us for sure what will happen if, and these stories are almost always negative.
Unlearning the Blocks to Group Synergy
Here are some reframing perspectives intended to help you unlearn the barriers pointed out above.
Your thoughts are just thoughts. Now I’m not saying your thoughts can’t be useful, I’m just saying that they aren’t who you are any more than the particles of this morning’s breakfast passing through you as you read this. You have around 60,000 thoughts each day. Don’t get to attached to any of them, they’ll be more enough to go around. If you’re truly tuned in and listening to the group and a natural impulse arises to share a thought, then do it. Do so just as you might release gas from your intestines (though preferably, not in present company), unattached to how it’s received and with full knowledge that this is something you no longer need to hold inside. How it lands and how it’s used or not is no longer up to you.
View your unrefined impressions as ingredients in a recipe. When a group is heading into new territory in the pursuit of synergy, the path is unknown. Uncharted territory is unpredictable and at first, often indescribable. Your partially formed sensation or insight might be just the piece you or someone else needs to hear to formulate the next step. Sometimes your job is simply to express and to let others make sense of it.
Be curious about what’s going to happen. New creations require physical, mental, and emotional space within which to emerge. Babies form in empty wombs, and artists often wander in creative and literal deserts before inspiration strikes. Thinking you know what’s going to happen before you take action may tarnish your action. Unlearn the habit to have it all figured out before you act. Each step forward lends a new perspective. So let the action itself show you what’s next.
If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.
Tell me what you think about unlearning blocks to synergy and/or what happened for you in practicing the inactions above. Please share your thoughts, stories, and experiences in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!