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Syntegrity is a formal model presented by Anthony Stafford Beer, a British theorist, in the 1990s and now is a registered trademark. It is a form of non-hierarchical problem solving that can be used in a small team of 10 to 42 people. It is a business consultation product that is licensed out to consulting firms as a basis model for solving problems in a team environment.
The Syntegrity helps finding group solutions.
The strategy used in Syntegrity focuses in amplifying each participants’ capabilities rather than reducing complexity of communication to an existing common denominator. It provides a context for people to create different foci for their interactions. These foci are used to organise the participants’ individual thinking. Rather than operating in a hierarchical structure the strategy is to use a truly non-hierarchical communications protocols, which allow all participant to relate to each other directly or indirectly. The overall process relies on creating lateral communication channels to allow the reverberation of ideas throughout the group.
A protocol for collaboration: Team Syntegrity
Team Syntegrity is a meeting protocol to support the encounter of about 30 people in a non-hierarchical set up. It supports a strong exchange of personal knowledge and experience, giving to all participants the chance to contribute to the best of their abilities to the purpose of the project. Briefly the steps of the protocol can be described as follows:
- Proposing and opening question and the constitution of an infoset. The opening question emerges from the purpose of the meeting. The infoset is the group of people contributing to the meeting.
- Participants are asked to contribute individually with "Statements of Importance" (SI) relevant to the purpose of the collaboration.
- Based on these SIs, participants elaborate aggregated statements of importance (ASI). These are statements emerging from participants’ interactions, supported by several of them, rather than by single individuals. This is achieved in a market place of ideas. Participants jostle and achieve support of 4-5 people to what they considered relevant to the purpose at hand. This way hundreds of SIs may be reduced to tens of ASIs.
- The participants are then asked to relate ASIs in triplets and doublets of associated ASIs, that is, the ASIs are combined in groups that seem to address the same topic. The purpose is to reduce the ASIs to up to 12 Consolidated Statements of Importance (CSIs) by a process of elision. These are the topics for discussion in the meeting.
- A voting procedure follows to enable each participant to express his/her preferences for the topics.
- Based on the voting, topics are allocated to participants using a computer supported algorithm. Each participant becomes member of two discussion teams, that is, is member of two teams of five, responsible for the elaboration of two topics, and becomes a critic of two other teams. Team members discuss the topics and prepare "Final Statements of Importance" (FSI). Critics observe a team’s discussion and contribute as requested to improve the quality of this discussion. Critics are free to discuss with the team members during their allocated times, commenting on either the content of the discussion or on the process of the meeting.
- Teams discuss the topics in three meetings, moderated by facilitators, who may also support the documentation of these discussion, for instance using flip-charts. Each meeting ends up with a summary. The last of the three Outcome Resolves, as these meetings are called, ends up with the teams’s Final Statement of Importance. Intermediate outcome resolve statements are made available to all participants, to enhance the reverberation of ideas in the infoset.
- Stafford Beer (1994) Beyond Dispute: The Invention of Team Syntegrity; John Wiley, Chichester.
- Espejo and Schwaninger (1997) To be and not to be, that is the system: a tribute to Stafford Beer
- Schwaninger, M. (2003) A Cybernetic Model to Enhance Organizational Intelligence. Systems Analysis, Modelling and Simulation 43(1): 53-65.