A buzzword that has become corporate gold when discussing strategy and advancement of a company’s objectives. Synergy. It’s a really cool word with a few y’s that is just a synonym for “cooperation” and “teamwork”. The literal definition of synergy is:
The idea of different parts coming together to work as a unit greater than themselves is not a new concept, just the word. However, under this new movement, we see a great difference in how we discuss the same topics. A topic recognized as powerful and heading towards the forefront of innovation. Its utter crap but we will go along with it for the sake of discussing the ideas of special topic rhetoric, general rhetoric, and academy rhetoric developed by Wayne Booth in The Idea of a University – As Seen by a Rhetorician.
As an industrial engineer, we discuss engineering management to a great length in the curriculum. Entering into modern theologies the idea of synergy among work team or present in the office environment is almost a passing statement. It’s benefits are never fully stated nor how to develop such a state of synergy. Never in four years of study and three internships had a teacher or manager been able to point to a situation and show us the ‘synergy’ that was happening. This is not say a concept or principle can be abstract, there are plenty of concepts that cannot be held or touched or seen. In this case, something that is occurring in real time should be able to be witnessed and to this day I still have no idea what synergy looks like in person. I would assume it looks very close to a well-oiled machine of a group working towards completion of a project or a department functioning seamlessly to achieve quarterly goals. Nevertheless, if I am relying on experts in my field to define synergy, I still have yet to grasp the concept completely.
Now, how does this relate to various forms of rhetoric you may ask? Simple, I am one of the frauds that Booth mentions that can float by on general and academy rhetoric when it comes to synergy. However, I will assert that I am not alone and that the majority of people who use the word ‘synergy’ are also frauds. The front line work on synergy that would exist to distinguish the experts is clouded and unbounded as other concepts under study are, meaning demonstrating synergy exclusively is rarely done. There is little demonstration of synergy differing from teamwork and cooperation. This leaves the door wide open for companies to post values and goals involving synergy when no one has an expert understand of a recently developed concept. There is a general understanding that synergy is good, innovative, supportive, etc. So using this public understanding it’s pretty simple to shape one’s experiences in the frame and mindset of synergy and thus tap into academy rhetoric to seem like an experienced and competent participant in synergy. I attribute several good interviews concluding with a job offer by throwing in the sentence “I enjoy the synergy of everyday work life and long term projects”.
In respect to the relation model offered by Booth to link the understanding of various fields to other fields of study, synergy is a great demonstration of a pathway. Even if synergy is an amorphous term that isn’t concretely demonstrated and reproduced, the general strive towards achieving it looks relatively the same in engineering, management, vocational paths, academics, writers, editors, and collaborators and so on. It is one of the metaphorical tentacles reaching out to touch all the scales of different disciplines, which will help enable the collaboration of disciplines in groups for understanding of technical information into usable application. While synergy itself is full of crap as a practice, it as a tool only compliments Booth’s model as an attempt to understand and communicate between disciplines.