304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
A dear friend of mine, who I’ve known for close to 30 years and just so happens to be one of the most intelligent, knowledgeable, and insightful people I know, has been visiting me for the past three weeks. Our time together has been spent in a sort of joint retreat, engaging in hours upon hours worth of uniquely complex conversations on varied topics. During this process, we couldn’t help but acknowledge that, whenever we encounter one another in this way, something beautiful occurs. A bounty of new ideas emerge, none of which would have otherwise been born from either of us individually. Putting our minds together, we plumbed the archives of our vocabularies in an effort to coin a term that would best (and most concisely) capture the essence of this phenomenon, landing on the combination of words that title this article: synergistic discourse.
So, what is synergistic discourse?
Borrowing language most typically associated with chemistry or biology, that which is synergistic involves, well, a synergist. A synergist is something (e.g., a chemical agent, muscle) that enhances the effectiveness of something else, thus creating a synergy. Synergy, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, refers to: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.This is precisely what was happening as a result of our conversations; we were serving as synergists for one another, thereby producing a result greater than the sum of our individual contributions.
In the broadest sense, discourse is a synonym for conversation or dialogue. However, there are nuances to the word “discourse” that make it most appropriate to convey what we were aiming to describe by the term synergistic discourse. After all, our “synergistic” discussions were not merely idle talk or chit chat. We were not merely exchanging stories about our lives, nor simply catching up with one another. Instead, whenever engaged in what we would later call synergistic discourse, we were actively brainstorming ideas around various objects designated for our attention. While directing our individual thought to these areas of focus, we’d think aloud, sharing our ideas and viewpoints with one another. As each of us shared, we’d build upon that which the other had just contributed, thus co-creating emergent perspectives. Discourse, as a subtype of conversation, implies the presence of some degree of knowledge or experience that substantiates the dialogue. It invites disagreement and debate as part of the co-creative process. However, it is important to note that discourse that produces synergistic outcomes is dramatically facilitated by the presence an established foundation of mutual admiration, affection, and respect. My friend and I share such a foundation, in spades.
Synergistic Discourse: A form of conversation between two or more participants deliberately guided by the intention of producing original ideas and/or perspectives.
Synergistic discourse is purposeful. There should be an understanding between all participants about the objective for having the conversation, namely, its intention. At the outset, participants may articulate and answer a variety of questions to help clarify their common objective. Examples: What is the problem we are trying to solve? What do we hope to achieve as a result of this interaction? What is our end goal?
Synergistic discourse is non-hierarchical. It is important to recognize that each participant serves as a synergist, regardless of their status or level of contribution. A participant who remains quiet may be adding to the collective nonverbally or waiting to feel more inspired to share a pivotal thought or idea. Everyone present shares equal standing as a contributor to outcome.
Synergistic discourse is creative. Participants understand that the process will result in the birthing of something new, such as an original idea, perspective, or solution.
Synergistic discourse is non-competitive. Participants equally value the contributions of all members and do not disproportionally favor their own ideas and perspectives over those of others. Individuals should avoid trying to push, force, or sell their own viewpoints, especially pre-existing ones.
Synergistic discourse is non-egoistic. In short, no one aims to be right nor takes personal offense at the manner in which discourse occurs. Focus should remain on the object of the discussion rather than interpersonal dynamics. Conversational tone throughout the discourse, even during disagreement and/or debate, remains dignified and respectful.
Synergistic discourse is non-linear. The path from point A to point B is expected to be a circuitous one that twists and turns through unexpected places and ultimately ends at point Z. The more the discourse is allowed to meander freely, the more likely it is to produce unanticipated rewards.
Synergistic discourse culminates in agreement. The sharing of contrasting perspectives (i.e., disagreement) is instrumental to the creative process. However, in the end, the final outcome is something that all participants agree has value. Enthusiasm for what is emerging will grow as participants grow closer and closer to reaching conclusion. It is like when several artists or musicians collaborate on a single work. Ideally, everyone eventually arrives at an agreement that, at least for the time being, “Yes, that’s perfect!”
Perhaps my favorite thing about the term “synergistic discourse” is that it is, itself, the product of what it describes. Along these lines, I must give credit where credit is due, to my lifelong friend and colleague, Dorian Luqas. There is, and always will be, a profound synergy to our discussions, for which I feel deeply fortunate to have his friendship in my life.
Thank you, good sir. Thank you.