Team Synergy – sinergia of what to what

‘exploiting collective intelligence and cognitive diversity

Adaptation, innovation and transformation are extremely difficult to manage and realize; ‘doing the rights things’. This difficulty is mainly associated with failing to understand complexity and the variety propagated by systems and too much reliance on single managers or super CEO.

Organization systems face extremely high internal and external complexity that determine the survival, efficacy, performance and resilience of a system in their specific competitive environments. In order to cope with complexity, system according to Ross. W. Ashby they can only do so if the directive (governance) and regulatory mechanism that are in place are able to cope complexity they need to manage; the variety of management (governors) is at least equal to the variety caused by the organization and its environment. This can only be achieved if the entire knowledge, intelligence and cognitive diversity that is available in the organization is combined and exploited to leverage, innovate and transform the system. Many organization consist accumulation managers, engineers and specialist collectively via an efficient protocol which is able to provide critical direction.

Typical example of high expectation; expecting from single person to execute major transformation relates to HP: HP Carly Fiorina may be an excellent CEO but it does not imply the CEO has the ability to carry-out major transformation and successfully introduce industry paradigm. Same can be said about Steve Jobs: very successful with iPhone, tablets ect..; but it does not imply that Steve Jobs at Nokia would have made a difference.

Nokia ( ) further example transformation failure: in this case the main issue was not related to innovation but more related to fact that their whole governance model was based on a crumbling technological paradigm impacting their resilience. They failed to understand that innovation in a crumbling paradigm can only lead to failures.

Why innovation fails?

“If you had to guess, what percentage of ideas for ground-breaking new products or services would you say are marketplace flops, or just never see the light of day? 50%? 80%? According to Mark Payne, it’s closer to 90%”

Why transformation fails?

The reported failure rate of large-scale change programs has hovered around 70 percent over many years.

Accenture:  According to Gartner, “almost 90% of transformation projects miss their mark.”

According to research by McKinsey & Company, about 70% of all changes in all organizations fail.

After almost two decades of intense change from corporate reorganizations, new software systems such as ERP , and quality-improvement projects (six sigma) , the failure rate remains at 70%. Project failure not only has impact on cost but can actually result in major decline.

When changes fail, people often grow cynical impacting motivation and become afraid of their current and future security.

Analyzing reasons for failure in change and adaptation

Reasons for failure:

Methodology: Currently there is no winning formula to manage change adaptation. Organizations tend to apply latest fashion rather than what really works. Some examples

  • Business process re-engineering
  • Business process modeling
  • Enterprise architecture framework
  • Six sigma
  • Business model canvas
  • System thinking

Believing in the magic bullet; ERP, BPM ect…

  • Lack of practice and effective systemic learning. Mistakes are good they assist learning process and allows
  • Lack of clear view related systemic view of goals, essential variables, historical values, events
  • Poor association of essential variables to system elements
  • Confusing innovation with transformation
  • Lack of true effective systemic data – System cockpit
  • Lack of team working, and lack of skills. Failure to associate right skills to adaptation process, failure to invest in right skill
  • Weak CEO sponsorship
  • Transformation initiative focused on wrong things (decide on golf course with consulting partner)
  • Poor system governance framework
  • Inability to coordinate the right people to undertake transformation
  • Key failure related to lack of the right knowledge
  • Lack of investments to build the right knowledge
  • Lack of efficient use of knowledge
  • Misguided direction of knowledge
  • Enforcing mental constraints

Reality in order to succeed, a systemic integrated approach is needed using a various tool-set and exploiting combined intelligence, know-how of many rather than single person or outside consulting firm.

This implies exploiting the collective intelligence within the organization with external input where needed. It is a known factor that the characteristics of the individual participants as causal factors that make up a group more intelligent, and also regular practices of a team that made it consistently more creative, especially when it had to come up with novel solutions. The importance of cognitive diversity, a characteristic that  is to perceived to be a must-have for groups dealing with complex issues. It is important  keep in mind that for diversity to play for (not against), certain conditions need to be fulfilled.

Leveraging the system compared to leverage function is extremely complex and difficult to realize. Organizations require a specific protocol that must make every effort to integrate and to network the knowledge which is available within the organization; exploit collective intelligence and cognitive diversity via a protocol that becomes an effective catalyst for knowledge generation and dissemination. This protocol raises the organizational system to a new level of communicative competence and operative efficacy and thus leads to system achieving competitive advantage relatively quickly , effective (accuracy of the what) by targeting strength and consensus.

In order to exploit collective intelligence and cognitive diversity a team protocol is needed to achieve major leverage. This protocol in order to exploit team synergy is based on the Team Syntegrity as a framework. This is a structured, non-hierarchical process for highly effective and efficient dialogue that leads to much faster, more informed outcomes and aligns people behind resulting decisions, messages and action plans that have a high chance of implementation.

Team Syntegrity

Team Syntegrity (TS) is a protocol to leverage the efficacy of teamwork in solving complex problems by means of stimulating collaboration and developing cross-fertilization and creativity by exploiting collective intelligence and cognitive diversity.

Team Syntegrity (TS) is a group framework for decision-making methodology developed by Beer (1994) and offers a creative, synergetic and participative platform for studying complex problems. By providing a structured means of creating and communicating group awareness (Pérez Ríos, 2012), TS allows individuals to generate a large number of ideas in a short period, to understand connections among very different areas and themes, and to recognize the contributions and knowledge of each individual team member (Schwaninger and Leonard, 2004).

The process is designed to be non- hierarchical so that communication can be open and synergy can be captured. Its purpose is to serve as a focus for the entire process and to generate maximum variety in the resulting responses. The main goal of the application of TS methodology is to create efficient teamwork and effective outcomes by:

  • exploit collective intelligence and cognitive diversity
  • generating a high level of participation among the individuals concerned
  • providing a structure and a protocol for communication that guarantees a nonhierarchical process
  • allowing the team to benefit from the variety and wealth of knowledge supplied by each individual within the group and putting into practice the synergies derived from the interaction among all its members;
  • creating a collective awareness and, if possible, a consensus regarding the central issue under consideration.

The process starts with a question concerning the issue to be studied or discussion to be dealt with within TS protocol. Its purpose is to serve as a focus for the entire process and to generate maximum variety in the resulting responses; Typical ‘questions’ :

  • Maximizing system potentiality
  • Resilience perspective ‘from what to what ‘
  • Innovation initiative
  • Transformation initiatives

One of the fundamental aspect of TS is to avoid mistakes and side-effects which are more damaging as per Doerner (cf Doerner 1992) six classes mistake people are prone to make in coping with and intervening in complex systems.

TS is based on a physical structure that is represented by geometric model ideally a icosahedron. This has 30 struts each of which represent a person. Each of the 12 edges represent a topic that is being discussed; the edges (topics) and struts (people) create internal network of interaction whereby ultimate statement of participatory democracy since each role is indistinguishable from any other without formal hierarchy (no top, bottom, sideways)

The Icosahedron  geometric model is used to structure the Team Syntegrity protocol so that maximum efficacy in outcome is guaranteed. Using the Icosahedron as a model this then structures the team protocol as follows:


The formation of networks by persons which make up an infoset is a set of individuals who share a common concern and who are in possession of corresponding information or rather knowledge connected with the subject.

Five people manage one topic/issue, each topic represent the vertices. Each person represents an edge. 30 people (30 edges) will manage 12 topics (12 vertices).

The 12 topics must address the broad theme / question / problem to be studied. Each tipoc assigned a unique colour.


Each vertex which addresses a topic/issue / problem is represented by a group of 5 people (5 edges). The edges representing each person in turn link up to other vertex. The group which is part of a vertex has specific roles:

  • Members are requested to identify their preference topic/issue/problem preference. Each member is then assigned to 2 vertices with the problem solving role. Role definition; topic resolver (TR). They have the task to arrive at clear action with respect to their topic
  • Each member is also assigned the role of critic in groups other than 2 assigned problem solving role. Role definition; topic critic (TC). Critics are responsible for criticizing the content that is being developed by TR and for making the process a self-managed one
  • Role definition either compression or tensile
  • Each member is assigned as a critic (to provide tensile strength) of next two teams but one
  • Each member is also assigned role of observer in groups other than 2 assigned role TR or TC. Role definition; topic observer (TO). TO may not intervene at all during the discussion and may only observe and gather information. They play an important role as networks of knowledge and cognitive diversity; they take on what is being discussed in the teams they observe and carry new insights, ideas , conflict and emergence into their own groups where they are either TR or TC. They may if necessary intervene via facilitator if there is a view that team discussion becoming problematic. The facilitator may then decide on how to approach the group  if additional information is of value for further review.
  • Facilitator role to ensure effective running of teams, arranging facilities, scheduling topics and members, conflict resolution, training and presenting final outcome (team outcome and all supporting documents) to sponsor TS session.

The participants infoset are typically selected to represent a broad group of stakeholders within the organizations and their technical capability; subject manager experts, leaders, managers, employees, partners…

The major benefit of the critic and observer role to maximize group intelligence and cognitive diversity and ensure maximum possible efficacy is realized in resolving or addressing topic/issue or problem and is exposed to the maximum amount of knowledge.


Beer applied principles of managerial cybernetics to work out how to achieve high levels of ‘synergy’ (cooperation and commitment) in groups that are large enough to satisfy issues of requisite variety, and small enough to accomplish something (the right thing to do; of what to what).

It is crucial that in order to ensure effective organizational adaptation and viability that there is harmony between two systems (VSM System 4 strategic management and System 3 operational management homeostat), this harmony can be achieved by adopting Team Syntegrity protocol. The key objective of Team Syntegrity is to bring together a group of people to take a comprehensive fresh view at a complex topic in order to as team to agree ‘WHAT’ and “WHY” with respect to effective adaption (the right things to do).

The key aspect is to avoid defining the ‘What’ and the ‘WHY’ that can be damaging from a system perspective: this implies that the adaption effort causes more damage than benefit whereby emerging behavior impact viability, sustainability, potential systemic efficiency and effectiveness.

Team Syntegrity Protocol  Methodology

STEP 1: Broad Question

The protocol TS process kicks off with defining a Broad question or theme by initiated by sponsor/stakeholders/shareholders that will be addressed by the team; something that does not exists, something that needs to be transformed , new product innovation , new governance frameworks , maximizing system potentiality.

In the context of xxx, what can be done yyyyy in order that zzzz?

Example “what is our future´” or broad conscious design of something that does not exit, new product (innovation), new perspective, new paradigm (transformation).

TS facilitator will be responsible to facilitate the process, schedule sessions and assign members to topics that have right infoset. A spreadsheet is generated listing topics, each topic will have unique color, group members are then assigned to each topic as TR, TC and TO. This spreadsheet will then be used for scheduling group sessions. Topics are scheduled in some logical sequence with two topics running parallel based on agreed number of cycles. In each iteration topic overlap is changed to ensure maxim participation.

The number of cycle and duration of cycle normally agreed at start of the process. Duration each cycle could last half day with the last cycle to confirm outcome of problem resolution of each team that will then be reviewed with total group. Ideally protocol scheduled over 5 days:

  • Day One; Kick off, opening question verification, expectation. Defining statements of importance, topic definition and team assignment
  • Day 2 , 3 and 4; 3 iterations of all the topics over 3 day period
  • Day 5; Final topic validation, topic summaries, final group plenary, final outcome and next steps.

Facilitators play important role with respect to observing team members,  management of the topics, effective participation of team members and assist with aspects such as casual loop modeling, scenario planning. The importance team member observation is to provide sponsors the level of team member involvement and added value.

STEP 2 ; Topic Definition and Planning

The initial process kicks off where the participants through brainstorming are invited to present Statements of Importance their most creative thoughts which will be recorded on a card. These cards or Statements of Importance  (SI) are posted on a board and examined by the participants and clustered in similar heading/category.

These individual statements are then either binned or grouped into focus topics. One SI may be assigned to more than one topic.

This forms part of free floating series of discussions called problem jostle in a large room with flip charts, boards to attach SI and other media. The SI where required are refined to ensure effective meaning and interpretation.

Participants then announce key topics that will discussion which are drawn from the SI. Team members have total freedom introducing topics and solicit input from others.

A consensus is then develops regarding topics that are worth further exploration and are confirmed as Aggregated Statement of Importance (ASI) for signature. The ASI contain a brief summary , category, endorsement and are associated to SI.

  • ASI reference number
  • Theme description
  • Theme description towards broad question
  • Priority
  • Endorsement (number) participants
  • Associated SI to ASI
  • Topic colour

Once endorsed by 5 or more participants the ASI become eligible to be considered as one the twelve topics of discussion (12 vertices of a icosahedron) .

Members are chosen based on representation of the variety of viewpoints, competence applicable to theme that will be addressed. Assignment will be as follows:

  • Topic representative TR assigned to two topics
  • Topic critic TC assigned to two topics different to the topics assigned as TR
  • Topic Observer TO assigned to four other topics

The aggregated statement of importance ASI are sequenced by facilitators so that they can be reduced to 12 topics . A check is done to determine if certain ASI can be grouped with other ASI.

A vote is then taken by participants to formally confirm the 12 topics which then become Consolidated Statement of Importance CSI . Topics are then documented in a spreadsheet:

  • Each topic represents vertices (12)
  • Each topic has five struts making up the team, each strut is a member
  • Every strut is uniquely connected to two vertices; each member part of two teams (two topics)
  • Summary for each member
    • TR Assignment to team A discussing topic T1 (topic 1)
    • TR Assignment to team B discussing topic T2
    • TC Assignment to team C discussing topic T3 as critic (tensile)
    • TC Assignment to team D discussing topic T4 as critic (tensile)
    • TO Assignment to teams discussing topic T5, T6, T7 and T8 as observers

Once team are scheduled and are running, the critics meet with team members addressing specific topic, listen to their discussion and offer comments; constructive criticism and if required supported by casual loop diagram (cause and effect)

The critic role is designed to provide a counterweight; tension versus the compression generated by the team. This is done by constructive comments with respect to the team processes and by sharing relevant information from other teams. Further role to is to carry out planning and sequencing of topic discussions discussion in order to avoid overlaps and conflict with respect to member team association.

Each member has given a badge which is color coded with the two teams assigned (topics compression) and two teams a critics (tensile)

The observers can only observe and cannot intervene. The purpose of observation is to gather critical knowledge that can be of great importance when managing their own topic as TR or TC. If required the TO can communicate with facilitator their concerns.

STEP 3: Outcome Resolve

Teams meet to discuss topic towards providing an initial outcome. There is at least one representative of all the other 11 team, combination of TR, TC and TO will be present in the meeting to ensure reverberation so that each thought, every idea is being transferred automatically to all other topic teams via the participants and via statements documented by team members of facilitators.

Facilitator role is to take notes (statements) during the discussion, monitor adherence to rule of the game and support the group arriving to a solution. Facilitator has an important role to guide casual loop modeling or scenario planning.

Each group meet three times during a TS session with the same group/ topic members specifically TR and TC while TO can be flexible to shift across other groups to gather other topic exposure. The three sessions allow teams to meet three times and has networked with all other teams this way maximum dissemination and reverberations of relevant knowledge can be realized. Team iteration approach as is follows:

First Iteration; group discusses the status quo in regard to their topic (Aggregated Statement of Importance) , their associated Statements of Importance and relevance towards addressing Opening Question. TR and TC reconfirm and document any further aspect to be considered in the first Iteration Outcome Resolve (OR_1). The OR_1 is documented and printed so other teams have access and take into account for their sessions.

Second Iteration; In the second iteration team discusses ideal outcome without constraints to define ideal situation what should be done. Team Critics TC play an important role to provide inputs specifically with respect to emergence;  cause and effect conditions. Team Observers TO purely there to observe and gather knowledge for their own team sessions. In exceptional cases TO may intervene via facilitator approval to present additional inout . Second session generates revised Outcome Resolve (OR_2) documented and made available to other team. Additional documentation such as scenario modeling, technical papers, Causal Loop modeling are attached. This is fundamental to provide credence to outcome resolve.

Third Iteration; In this interaction there is the final focus towards the ideal ‘what should be done’ within this topic that will provide maximum leverage with respect to Opening Question/Problem/Issue . The proposal for implementation to the key sponsors should be realizable with initial estimation with respect to complexity, effort and possibility of risk and possible damage should not be implemented adequately/correctly. This is the documented in final Outcome Resolve for Implementation (OR_I) The OR_I should also include executive summary to be included in overall executive summary of all the groups addressed to project sponsor.

A fourth iteration may be possible if needed based on request from TR and TC to refine and change content of their OR due to un-expected emergence.

In all interactions the critic role becomes fundamental to consider possible side-effects and ensure a feasible optimum outcome.

The teams Outcome Resolve are achieved through a synergy and integration by:

  • The Outcome Resolve are developed to provide a detailed action plan that integrates the best knowledge of all the participants by exploiting collective d intelligence and cognitive diversity
  • The team members share strong commitment for implementation of what is jointly developed
  • The participants via the structure of iteration and team structures are highly networked and leverages team building
  • Participants learn from each other and better understand the other participant’s positions, constraints and emergence. This enables leveraging the whole rather than the parts.

STEP 4: Final Outcome

The team session closes with a group plenary organized by facilitator. This plenary session has the following purpose:

  • It reconfirms the question under study raised by sponsors and the purpose
  • Facilitator confirms topics that were agreed
  • For each topic an executive summary is presented by individual group representative
  • The facilitator the provides a list of Final Statement of Importance (FSI) for realization with a specific leverage ranking , risk factor and implementation complexity and effort.
  • The FSI also define possible systemic conflict/constraint that requires resolution
  • If required it facilitator may suggest spin-off Team Syntegrity session for specific question/ issues to be resolved based on outcome of the different groups.
  • The facilitator them provides sponsors the following output:
    • Documented executive summary with attached final outcome resolve (associated TR and TC) from the groups
    • All the Outcome Resolve iteration
    • List of members roles, association to teams
    • All supporting documentation such statement of importance, simulation documents , scenario planning, causal loop modeling
    • A possible high level implementation plan for sponsors which relate to the WHAT and WHY, WHERE, WHEN with respect to main question.