Synergy or “You Make Me Better” – Blue Jacket style


Most of us have heard the word Synergy all our lives. It was popularized in the 50’s and is widely known as the shortened “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts”

Wikipedia, paraphrased     Synergy

[1] In the context of organizational behavior, following the view that a cohesive group is more than the sum of its parts, synergy is the ability of a group to outperform even its best individual member.The value added by the system as a whole, beyond that contributed independently by the parts, is created primarily by the relationship among the parts. In essence, a system constitutes a set of interrelated components working together with a common objective: fulfilling some designated need.

[2] Synergy means that teamwork will produce an overall better result than if each person within the group were working toward the same goal individually. However, the concept of group cohesion needs to be considered. Group cohesion is that property that is inferred from the number and strength of mutual positive attitudes among members of the group. As the group becomes more cohesive, its functioning is affected in a number of ways. First, the interactions and communication between members increase. Common goals, interests and small size all contribute to this. In addition, group member satisfaction increases as the group provides friendship and support against outside threats.

[3] There are negative aspects of group cohesion that have an effect on group decision-making and hence on group effectiveness. There are two issues arising. The risky shift phenomenon is the tendency of a group to make decisions that are riskier than those that the group would have recommended individually. A second, potential negative consequence of group cohesion is group think. Group think is a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in cohesive group, when the members’ striving for unanimity overrides their motivation to appraise realistically the alternative courses of action.

What does this mean to the Blue Jackets? Well, let’s take the previous definition a step at a time, then we need to apply it individually.

First, paragraphs #1. & #2.  This is the meaning behind the: coach speak, press speak phrase “building chemistry”. This is actually the building blocks behind the whole synergy concept. We hear it all the time, when it is being used as a CYA. No explanation is ever given for the performance of a team in a special event such as an ‘all star game” or a world junior tournament” situation, the chemistry and team building just seem to happen overnight. The small group IE Blue Jacket Roster becomes a unit, of “Us against Them, the rest of the world”.

Paragraph #3 is the negative side of synergy. The we are better than the rest of the world and do  not have to follow the rules. We can take this chance as he are the best kinda thing. But also, the “we’ve been there and done that and this is what happens” thought. Like blowing 3rd period leads, and allowing last second goals. This is the negative part of group think.

I propose this is a step beyond the synergy concept that is the heart and sole of a “Team” that could be defined as chemistry, but is actually more then that, it’s the concept of a player making others better. The most common illustration is in a marriage, The wife makes the husband better. IE behind every good man is a good woman kinda thing. Using the phrase, finding the right chemistry, the Blue Jacket lines have been shuffled dozens of ways. What is behind the moves is the search of finding the combination that works best. There is not doubt the jackets have talented players on their team, the trick is to make that talent work. I think this is beyond the synergy word and beyond the chemistry word. but I’m not sure what words to use except “you make me better.” Let’s make an easy illustration that sorta gives you an idea of what I am talking about. I, like many others, think using Rick Nash and Jeff Carter on the PK would make our PK better. Most of the thinking is not a 100% use, but a “slip them in sometime to make the other team change or at least consider the need to change their PP activity”.  This makes sense the PK would be better as we are putting star power on the ice vs more the “grinder” type. But, think outside the box,  why not use Ryan Johansen sometimes? He has the same long reach with his stick the same looping strides that can cover a lot of distances? I think he would make our PK better as it again alters our possibilities and alters the other team’s concerns. This could be a combination that also provides some synergy that does not increase the “star power ice time”

Earlier this year it was very obvious that Vinny Proposal was a “make me better” player. Whatever line he was on was the line that was the most dangerous. Ryan Johansen got his 3 game winning goals when paired with Proposal. Were these by chance? I think not, Vinny was a “make me better” player. So what makes a “make me better” player. Is a “make me better” player a “mmb” in all situations and lines? In fact, does “mmb” have to be a player, can it be a coach or other staff? At first thought it might be selflessness. Give one for the Gipper. Herb Brooks sort of explained it in his famous quote concerning “the best team is not necessarily made up of the best players” . A second thought might be that Synergy sounds like a word that has “energy” in it. In fact maybe that’s what it is, second energy. This concept may be the closest to the truth. Synergy means a second energy, a force that comes from the cohesiveness of the group.

There is a TV commercial for an insurance company that shows random people doing acts of kindness to help others who are then encouraged to do an act of kindness to another, then another etc. I actually see this at work, where a person will just help someone by giving them a hand, It makes both feel better and defiantly improves the attitudes of both.

The Blue Jackets have some talent on their team, The Blue Jackets have some players giving effort on this team. The synergy is just not there. I think it does come and go between people, but the continual synergy of the second energy is not there. I think the player[s] that is the catalyst for providing this spark to ignite the energy has/have not arrived. A wholesale team blowup is not needed, but a change in personnel will be necessary to obtain the synergy spark. EVERYONE has their opinion on who needs to be traded, my viewpoint is that the synergy factor should be a consideration for any trade. We do not need the most talented person, we need the spark that will tie the pieces together and make this a better team.  This commodity is hard to measure and harder still to find. But to me that is the real need of the Blue Jackets.