Synergy – What is it, concept, types of synergy

We explain what synergy is and its meaning in physics, pharmacology, business administration and ecology.

Synergy occurs when different elements add their effects.

What is synergy?

With the word synergy (from the Greek synergy, “Cooperation”) we usually call the joint action of two or more agents to successfully carry out a task. It can refer, in many areas of knowledge, to forces, influences, systems or factors of any kind, as long as they operate in a concentric way, that is, adding the effects of each one.

This term is used in disciplines as different from each other such as economics, biology, medicine or sociology, and in common language it is conferred positive and desirable traits, according to the principle that the joint action of many is more powerful than that of only one. Thus, to cite a few examples, we speak of synergy in:

  • Physical. It is one of the names of the emergent property of systems, which allows the joint action of two or more elements, in order to obtain an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. For example: the water molecule (H2O) has individual electromagnetic properties, which are reformulated when associated with four more molecules, thus obtaining the capacity for surface tension, fluidity, etc., which are non-existent if we observe a single molecule.
  • Pharmacology. The “synergistic effect” is known as the result of the joint administration of two or more drugs, whose beneficial effect is much greater than that produced by each one administered independently. For example: vitamin D and calcium are often administered together, as the former promotes the absorption of calcium in the bones in the body. So if they are administered separately, their long-term effect would be much slower.
  • Business Administration. We speak of business synergy to refer to the joint action of two or more elements of the same organization, in favor of the realization of a common goal, in such a way that the greatest possible benefit is obtained from the same initial resources. This can also happen between two totally different companies. For example, the technology companies Intel and Microsoft operate synergistically in the production of powerful microprocessors, in such a way that the work of one lowers the costs of the other by promoting demand and a “virtuous circle” in economic terms for both.
  • Ecology. In the defense of the environment, we often speak of “toxic synergies”, to express the devastating effect on the ecosystem that two substances or chemicals have when acting together, and how it would be enough to eliminate or reduce one of them so that the damage ecological decrease enormously. For example: certain herbicides such as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, mecoprop and dicamba, according to studies from the University of Wisconsin, are used in very low proportions each, so that they have no toxicological effect, but when they are together in These extremely low proportions, a proven synergistic effect, cause proven fetal damage, despite each being within “safe limits”.
  • Sociology. The term synergy is commonly used when thinking about human associations, whether they are collaborations between nations, social classes or individuals, that only by adding their efforts can they obtain a change or a result. For example: the synergy that leads minority opposition parties to a political alliance capable of mobilizing a majority of the electorate and winning the presidency of a country, despite the fact that none of these parties, separately, would be a real competition for the large traditional parties.