I stumbled upon this concept years ago in the Systems Thinking Newsletter. Here's the reference.The core theory of success is what the systems thinking folks call a reinforcing loop. Reinforcing loops work like a snowball rolling down a hill. Each turn of the circle adds momentum. In this case, our Core Theory of Success describes both a Virtuous and a Vicious Cycle. It works like this.If you improve the quality of relationship, the quality of thinking will improve, since people will be less defensive, and more open to hearing divergent opinion. Most groups practice discussion, where you beat me over the head with your opinion. I don't listen, I just formulate my response and wait for you to take a breath so I can jump in and beat you over the head with my opinion. This seems to describe most political discourse in our country today. No one listens, and no one changes opinions after discussion.

Effective teams, on the other hand, practice dialog. Dialog is hard work, it is a blending of inquiry and advocacy. First, as you speak, I assume a posture of inquiry, really trying to understand your point. Then I move to advocacy, where I put my ideas on the table. The solution often resides somewhere in the middle.As the quality of thinking improves, healthy dialog and diverse opinions will result in better decisions. the better decisions will then lead to more effective actions.Better Results flow from the more holistic thinking and ensuing actions of  a good team. In my Executive MBA, I never saw a project from our team that wasn’t better than the ideas I brought. That is what synergy is all about.

Better results make everyone feel better, and the quality of relationships improves.  The virtuous cycle is a reinforcing loop and begins again. Each turn around the loop improves each of the components.

Vicious Loop

Unfortunately, the cycle also works in reverse.  As the quality of relationships on a team deteriorates, so does the quality of thinking.  As the quality of thinking degrades, so does the quality of action, and results decline.  The sagging results put even more pressure on already weak relationships, causing further strain.  The Vicious Cycle continues.

Over the last fifteen years, I've found over and over again this Core Theory of Success holds true. I think that is why true teams find synergy. They have focused in a balanced way between the task to be done by the team, and the relationships that create a good team dynamic in the room. (See the recent post, Body of Christ as Ministry Team to learn more about effective teams.) Ignore this at your peril.