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Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Synergy and Heterosis

Synergy: the working together of two or more people, organizations, or things, especially when the result is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities (Encarta Dictionary).

Heterosis (hybrid vigor) :  Amount by which the average performance for a trait in crossbred calves exceeds the average performance of the two or more purebreds that were mated in that particular cross (

Both terms suggest something exceptionally positive.  The main difference between the two terms is the retention of the individuality of the contributing entities (synergy) and the loss of that individuality in the combined result of a newly created entity (heterosis).  For example, two companies that work in concert with exceptional positive results can be said to have synergy.  On the other hand by extension of the term, if the two companies merge with exceptional positive results, the positive result is not from synergy but from heterosis.

I was introduced to the concept of heterosis today celebrating Christmas at the home of Kathy’s parents.  Her father breeds Angus cattle, but he said that typically in Florida crossbreeds make it to the food market due to heterosis—the performance in terms of pounds of beef produced of the crossbred cattle exceeds that of purebreds.  (Angus, however, is still number one in terms of quality.)

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