Words-worth: Synergy

When Thomas Cook merged with Co-op Travel this year, its CEO, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, was interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme to explain the 'synergies' that would result from the merger.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Was this, he was asked, just management-speak for job cuts? Certainly 'synergy' has come to mean the savings that follow a merger, and that invariably means redundancies. But that is some way from the real meaning of synergy, which comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning 'working together'. In the 19th century, it became a medical term describing the combined action of a group of bodily organs. It is still used medically - for instance, to refer to the effect of using two or more drugs at once. It became a business term in the 1960s, having been popularised by the polymathic thinker Buckminster Fuller, who argued that things are sometimes more than the sum of their parts. Not always true, of course: Synergy was the name of a team in the current series of The Apprentice. And there hasn't been much co-operation there.

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