In this post I will focus on Syntegration, a suite of powerful, science-based processes that optimize large group interaction. First of all, let me explain that syntegration is the principle of problem solving, which will be used at the Swiss Talent Forum. Swiss Talent Forum is a 4-day event organized by the Swiss Institute of Science, which wil be held in Thun, from 25th to 29th of January 2009. Since I will participate at this event, I decided to write something about it. More about this Forum will be written in later posts during the event itself, however I want to present to the reader basic principles of Syntegration which will be used to maximize the output of the process of the Energy Challenge at the Forum.
Syntegration is based on a reliable mathematical principle. Common features are:
- Optimal Cross-linking and Cross-pollination: A group of, say, 30 people has a total of n (n-1), or 870, possible relationships, assuming that the relationship of A to B is in some way different from the relationship of B to A. These distinct relationships must be organized so that every person has a highly productive exchange with every other person. The design or architecture must leverage all of the different views, information, expertise, and experiences to produce the best possible solution.
- Effective Collaboration: Key people are expensive people whose time is scarce and must be spent effectively and efficiently.
So, what are the mathematical principles to ensure the highest level of Synergy?
Syntegration applies R. Buckminster Fuller’s architectonic principle of efficiency in the design of things.
Fuller is best known today for his geodesic domes, the lightest, most stable and most cost-efficient structures ever built. Even early in his career, he looked to nature for efficient construction solutions. Among other things, he discovered that nature never builds with right angles, instead preferring 60° angles. He transferred this principle to domes by using equilateral triangles. This method of construction achieves stability not by compression, as in traditional building, but by the distribution and concurrent application of tension and pressure. Fuller called this principle “Tensegrity”.
The energy efficiency of this revolutionary structural principle can be illustrated by comparing geodesic domes with traditional dome structures that are constrained by the fact that they can have a maximum diameter of 45 metres, after which the cupola collapses due to the increasing weight. Thus, the construction of Seville Cathedral, the second largest after St. Peter’s, was a five-generation long struggle against material. This maximum diameter does not apply to the 60° construction using equilateral triangles. Fuller was able to prove in practice that his domes actually gained in energy efficiency as they increased in size. The bigger they are, the more stable they are.
Other scientists have documented similar structures in micro-organisms, textiles, protein shells, or the C60 carbon molecule (Fullerene).
The following experiment illustrates this effect of syntegrity:
If four tennis balls are arranged in such a way that the individual balls have the smallest possible distance between them, the result is always a tetrahedron. A tetrahedron is a regular polyhedron with four equilateral triangles. This is a “minimum” structure. If, as a second experiment, you try to make four equilateral triangles using six matches, you will find that to do so you use a synergy effect. Three of the five regular solids consist of equilateral triangles: the tetrahedron with four triangles, the octahedron with eight triangles and the Icosahedron with twenty triangles. They also demonstrate the principle of minimum distance between vertices, with maximum synergy.
The Icosahedron is the model normally used for Syntegration.
Throughout a Syntegration, information is automatically distributed across all topics. Syntegration engineers the shortest gaps between all participants and ensures optimum cross-linking of knowledge. The symmetry of the structure results in optimum connectivity, with none of the participants marginalized.
The Icosahedron makes optimal use of the maximum possible number of contacts (n(n-1)), i.e. 870 for 30 people). It shortens the information distance between individual participants and – since it has no top or bottom – it has no hierarchy. Every participant has an equal opportunity to contribute his or her strengths, and to influence the outcome.