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Some Design Synergy Tools


Otto Van Nieuwenhuijze (external link)
Associate Professor of Integral Health Care, Intercultural Open University,

The following text proposes a set of tools for Synergy.

Synergy: liberating energy by teamwork

The term “Synergy” describes the energy that is liberated by process-sharing of separate systems. By connecting up, the share the same interface, due to which the interfacing energies can – under appropriate conditions – be combined, and thereby reduced for each system. Also, some of the energies related to the integration of the separate sub-systems into the shared context can be condensed, and thereby reduced.

This is the case in general, but of particular interest in living organisms which are characterised by the ability to change their internal degrees of freedom. This involves dimensional changes of state, corresponding with differences in the operational logic. In physics, a corresponding principle is known as the collapse of the state vector. In the domain of human interaction and understanding this change of logic is called a change of paradigm. In synergy, different operational states play simultaneous roles. In human interaction, synergy includes different modes of understanding (paradigms). The following addresses the application of synergy in the more general situation: including human involvement. Therefore the following description addresses Synergy not only from an objective perspective, but deals also with the particulars of subjective involvement. Part of the description therefore focuses on the changes of internal (processing) states – as is relevant in living beings; and the changes in awareness by which they can be monitored and modified.

Synergy involves the internal energy states, as a result of a change in interfacing with/in the context. For this reason synergy can not be imposed for living organisms. They are always able to change their internal degrees of freedom, if not, they die. To attain synergy therefore requires communication: the transfer of information by which the internal degrees of freedom are affected to a more general shareable state. Synergy requires the appreciation of uniqueness: one of the aspects of synergy is that the joint-system can do more than each component alone. The added value stems from the combination of more, and different points of perspective and unique possible states of being. By synergy, the system as a whole becomes more complex – has more possible states of being – due to which it can interface with a much more wide variation of possible contexts.

The presented tools for Synergy therefore address 4 aspects:
1) Personal Realisation inside of the interface
2) Interpersonal Attunement the inside of the interface
3) Transpersonal Awareness interfacing the interface
4) Integral Functionality embedding the interface


Before the tools themselves are presented, the rationale for their existence, and differences, are explained.
Fundamentally, Synergy Tools need to address both the Subjective & Objective aspects of the Synergy-Interaction. The Personal & Interpersonal aspects both need to be assessed.

This means that all people involved need to calibrate their own functional state and input as much as they need to calibrate the apparatus and people they work with.
It has an important consequence: the control paradigm, which is often used in working with objects, needs to be replaced by a communication paradigm in which self-governance plays a much more crucial role.

For this reason the following is presented by making use of a Systems Approach.
The System State (node),
The System Processes (branch)
The System Transformation (circuit)
The System Integrity(network) levels

All need to be addressed. The System Description applies to each individual participating in the Synergy Interaction, to their relationships, to the group organisation, and to their embedding in their context. This means that external objective and internal subjective aspects need to be combined: Synergy Tools for that reason require techniques for calibrating inner states of awareness.

The concept that is used throughout is simple: Synergy is based on elements functioning together as a larger unit.
The boundary between the separate units itself comes into play: what is seen as a separator at the level of the separate units, is a connector at the level of the combined unity.

The Interface itself therefore is the crucial common element in Synergy Interactions. It means that the persons involved cannot operate from their individual unique perspectives, but need to take that for granted and operate at the level of interfacing with their context. This is a different way of functioning in interaction. For this reason the paradigm role models of the scientist, artist, trader and mystic are presented, as means to clarify that, and how, it is necessary to change the state of involvement.

The tools themselves are fundamentally simple. They involve techniques that relate to normal bodily functions. We all have experience with each of these states. However, many people are not trained in making use of these different states in daily life due to social conditioning in i.a. schools. E.g., the normal state of daydreaming that we pass through in falling asleep and waking up is part of the set of techniques.

From control to self-control; from reality to realisation

Important in this approach if the notion of feed-forward-feedback closure. In seeking out new options, an open feed-forward loop is activated; compare it to a tendril probing for a new foothold. All options are kept open until a selection is affirmed and a choice is confirmed. This is the complement of the decidedness that is the result of feedback closure

In interaction both loops take place: the interaction is not a single loop, but a system of two loops. When they become part of a shared process, they operate simultaneously as a single system (a Lemniscate Loop) and as two separate cycles. An image which represent this interaction dynamic is that of the Zygote (our first body cell) in the process of its first cell division: at the end there are two cell that function still as one integral unity, which is operational at the same time. This means that the system is in a multiple state: unit, and unity. Duality and integrity. With further cell divisions this multiplicity expands, leading to a greater complexity (multiplicity) while the underlying simplicity (unity) is maintained. It is to be kept in mind that this is an essential aspect in dealing with Synergy: reference systems for dealing with units (multiplicity), and reference systems that deal with integrity (unity) need to be combined. This is a different requirement than commonly used in science. For this reason, the people involved in operating Synergy, need to operate the perspective of the Scientist, the Artist, the Trader and the Mystic (unity consciousness), all at the same time. It means that the models of science alone do not suffice. (This follows also from the realisation that in synergy is not about control but about self-control. It requires changes in involvement, which is what the exercises below are about.)

Science has developed extensive languaging for the unfoldment from simplicity to complexity, as is seen in the cell divisions of the Zygote. One example is the unfoldment from a Scalar to a Vector to a Matrix to a Field. A more rudimentary form is that of the Scalar to a Vector to a Tensor to a Spinor. In inverse sense, it is the relationship between an Array, its Determinant, its Kernel and its Dimensional Parameter. In functional analysis these same relationships are described as the unfoldment from the Deterministic State via the Variational Set and the Probabilistic System to the Potential Space. These different states require different reference systems to be able to be properly addressed. This is what was achieved in the development from Classical Theory, via Relativistic and Probabilistic modelling to Unified theory. Although this languaging system is already in place in mathematics and physics, its application is incomplete as it does not apply these findings to the theory itself. In order to be valid it needs to include the accounting for changes in human perspective, thus involvement. The exercises and tools for Synergy make this explicit.

Prototyping Synergy Tools

Social synergy involves interfacing, with various simultaneous aspects.
There is a personal psychological component, which addresses the different levels of consciousness involved in processing relationships at the personal, relationship, group organisation and embedding n context. This involve tools for consciousness, to accommodate shifts to the respective corresponding states
The second is at the level of social languages, and addresses the subjective, mutual, collective and objective codes of languaging
The third level involves the instrumental aspect of interacting with our context.
The fourth level involves ‘reality’, the context that we live in and form part of.

Synergy Tools

1. Personal tools
The first level of tools to be addressed is the set that involves the changes in personal state of consciousness. By realising that we can enter into different internal modes of functioning, we can relate differently to ourselves, and therefore differently to our context.
This first level needs to be addressed because it is necessary to have this experience before it is possible to know that there is a choice in our states of involvement. (Many people have been conditioned to no longer – consciously – make use of this option.)
This level needs to be addressed also because it is at the deeper levels of consciousness that the processes take place which relate to the different degrees of complexity of involvement with/in our dynamic context. This includes the process dynamics in interacting with other people.

The exercise itself is simple: it addresses shifts in attention, to become aware of our different sensorial systems, and how they each operate and act in our experiential realisation.


The first level is that of sensorial perceptions: the awareness of our context. This involves our sensory system at all of its levels.


The second level is that of somato-sensorial awareness, also known as propriocepsis. This involves the same nervous sensory system, now in its function of relaying our own body states and internal state dynamics.


The third level is that of the internal processing that takes place within us as result of our processing of our experience with/in our context. This is the level of psycho-emotive awareness.


The fourth level is the internal system state dynamics, on which our functioning is based. It is the base reference level for our interactions with/in our context. The more it is realised, the better –automatically – our integration in our context takes place. This is also the basis for synergy: the more each person is connected with himherself, the more the added value of synergy can emerge.

These states of perception (and realisation) correlate with different levels of our somatic organisation (our body functioning), respectively: our context, our body, our body organs, and our body cells. By simile we can say that this exercise brings our sensory awareness back to its basis: from our entrainment with the processes in our context, to our autopoietic cell dynamics.

Many people are unaware that we all use all of these processes at all times, and that these different roles of involvement form part of an ongoing cycle. We experience this in falling asleep and re-awaking. By becoming aware of thus awareness cycle, our innate deeper abilities come to the fore and can be better applied in daily life.
The exercise makes use of breathing as a means for consciousness entrainment. By focusing on the breath, a voluntary muscle action allows for a link to involuntary body processes, with which our breathing is linked. The breathing helps to focus awareness at levels where otherwise our awareness is lost – because these processes are autonomic.
This is also a reason why this exercise needs to be done with care: this exercise trains a person’s awareness to deeper levels of functioning. This also means that the person becomes more aware, and therewith more responsible, for these inner body states. This can be compared to learning computing: it adds possibilities to the use of our instrument/body, but it also brings forth the possibility to interfere with it. There exists ample literature on exercises like these (and they are recommended reading), For the exercise that follows it is recommended to execute it as described, and to change the ‘program’ only at one’s own risk, after having read other literature on the subject.

The exercise:

1) Sense the environment
Notice all that takes place around you. Experience all forms of vibrations, as they are perceived by our sensory organs: each provide part of the integral spectrum of vibrations.

2) Sense the body

3) Sense your thoughts and inner sensations
Our thoughts and emotions are inner reverberations, within the body, of earlier perceptions of our context, as relayed into our body.
What is sensed at this level is an after-play of earlier experiences in our context, and our (body) reactions to it.
By realising that this is the case the replay can be regarded for what it is, a shadow-play of our past unrelated to our actual present.
This makes it possible to focus on the ongoing present itself: the immediate living realisation in/of our body.
4) Sense

Object Process Interaction Realisation
Conscious subconscious unconscious out of conscious
Scientist artist trader mystic

2. Interpersonal tools
The second level of preparation for synergy addresses the interfacing, ‘from the inside’. It deals with the way we change our own role in involvement. It requires the previous level: the realisation of the different modes of awareness, and the choices involved.
In changing the way we interface, this exercise addresses the role that we take in our context: from passive, reactive, interactive to active. This involves choices; in synergy these choices are not based on our personal situation but on the joint process.

The various levels of involvement are again well known to us all. They are known by our personal development, in our evolution from baby to child to adolescent to adult. They are also known by our various respective mind sets, of observer (scientist), participant (artist), partner (trader) and creator (mystic). Each of these mind sets complements all others; together they span the whole range from passive to active i.e. from outsider to insider.
These levels of involvement are at the same time aspects of response-abitity. The (scientist) Outsider Observer is uninvolved and thereby irresponsible: the corresponding perspective of the context is that of a Reality, rather than a Realisation, as is the case for the Insider (mystic). In a synergetic interaction all aspects are required, not necessarily in the same person at the same moment, not in all persons at the same moment. What matters is that the whole range and its full dynamic is represented and can be explored.

Few people realise that there properties form part of our daily functioning. Within us these different levels of functioning are realised by different forms of autonomous reactions. Our conscious awareness of our own inner state, our subconscious awareness of our interfacing with our context (as experienced by ourselves), our unconscious awareness of our interfacing with our context (as experienced by others), and our out-of-consciousness awareness of our context itself (as existing without us being central to it). The limited awareness of these different levels of involvement is due to the role played by our reflexes. Once programmed in the past, they re-enact what we did in the past at 10, 100, 1000 times the speed at which we think. The result is that our reflexes will have acted for us, without our conscious knowledge. Our interfacing with our context is therefore mainly operated by reflex. To modulate our mode of involvement requires that we moderate the role of reflex. Many people find this difficult, because they have become habituated (or even addicted) to reflex. They rely on their reflexes acting for them, and consider this normal. The term “normal” thereby denotes mainly the habitual state of reflex mediated responses. (The whole construct of reflex mediated responses is known as the ego.) To operate synergy, it is needed to realise that we do not control the process, but that we are co-creators of the process. We can only deal with our involvement with/in it, and need to trust others to do likewise, and take responsibility for our ability to respond appropriately to their (collective-individual) actions. As, thus, our reactions are mediated by our reflexes, we need to assume responsibility for our reflexes, which requires awareness of their existence. (It does not require awareness of the individual reflexes. Only dysfunctional reflexes need to be identified and reprogrammed.) This is the essence of this exercise: the ability to suspend the notion of ‘normal’, i.e. to refrain from reflex-only mediated reaction, but to remain aware of one’s own involvement, ‘owner’ of one’s own responses.

Conscious Subconscious Unconscious Out of Conscious
Mystic Trader Artist Scientist
Insider interactor reactor observer

  • Relational techniques

3. Transactional training

  • putting in motion, instruments

To be inserted her: a summary of the “Synference” concept: a compact conference concept in which synergy is applied at many levels. “The Formulation of Consciousness” was operated by this principle in 2003

4. Reality realisation

  • harvesting synergy

To be inserted here: the need for accessing and addressing unconscious modes of functioning, and paradigm perspectives, in order to be able to operate synergy.
Synergy cannot be resolved by an analytical Point Perspective. In order to achieve synergetic collaboration, two perspectives - on either side of the interface - need to be combined, and understood as one integral process. This requires the integration of ‘left brain’ analytical thinking with ‘right brain’ synthesising cognitive/mental functions.
Because the interface needs to be straddled for synergy to occur, the interfacing itself is catalytic. Interface modulation requires involvement, which makes synergy a participational process. The inner states of involvement need to be addressed and resolved. It requires 3rd and 4th order system perspectives, which puts synergy beyond the scope of control systems. Synergy requires a different paradigm, because it operates by a different logic.

Unfolding complexity:
The Tetrahedron.

Designers create new objects, or concepts.
In doing so, they deal with newness, i.e. the unknown.

In order to be able to better do so, it helps to better understand the relationship between the known and the unknown – our ‘consciousness horizon’ – and how to get beyond it.

Between the Known and the unknown a Boundary can be envisaged, of which only part can be known. The other side of the boundary involves the unknown.

This boundary can be studied and made explicit:

On the one hand we have the known, on the other the unknown.
Between both we have an interface, by which the two are separated, and connected.

The one side of the interface is the means by which we connect with the (un)known.
The other side of the interface is where the known is lost into the unknown.

Discovering the unknown can thereby discerned in 4 stages:
1. The unknown
2. The realisation of the unknown
3. The realisation of the known.
4. The known.

Each stage reflects a different form of involvement.
This can be presented by an example:

1. A miner delves a gold nugget in a mountain.
2. This is then brought to the market.
3. There it is sold and bought.
4. Finally it is used in an object.

This can be represented by four types of trades:
1. The farmer. The person who finds a product in nature.
2. The artisan. The one who prepares the object for use.
3. The trader. The one who brings the object to the user.
4. The consumer. The one who uses the product.

There is another way in which this can be rendered:
1. An object.
2. A Process involved with the object.
3. An Interaction which contextualises the process.
4. An integration by which the object becomes embedded.

A simple schematic by which this can be graphically shown is the Tetrahedron.
A tetra-hedron is a four-angle: a four pointed shape.


The tetrahedron can be regarded as follows:
1) It contains a point of contact (with e.g. the unknown).
2) It contains a line of relationship (a connection process).
3) It contains a plane of interfacing (with the context).
4) It forms a volume of placement (embedding).

This reflects four types of relationships, expressed as four dimensions:
Point – identity - Object – 0D point
Line – relationship – process – 1D line
Plane – interface - interaction - 2D triangle
Volume – integration – 3D tetrahedron

In the tetrahedron the relationship between them can be seen as a spiral.

1) The spiral starts with the 0D point of first contact with Newness.
2) This develops a new line of though, which develops new Insight.
3) From this follows a new plane of exchange, via Communication.
4) This may lead to a new ‘world opening up’ as a Realisation.

The spirals of creation, manifestation, learning and realisation all reflect different points of departure in the tetrahedron. Together they create the multiple layers of meaning of the tetrahedral system.

These different layers of meaning reflect different modes of involvement.

For the dynamics of grown of insight and learning, the above interpretation of the tetrahedron helps to relate the different layers of meaning.


It is possible to unfold the tetrahedron not from the object view but from the perspective of process.
In this approach the Tetrahedron can be ‘read out’ as follows.

1) The starting point is any vertex. The object of perspective.
2) This leads to a line of development. The Process orientation.
3) It comes to a break point: the defining edge of the system. The Context Condition.
4) After which the system loops back on itself, or proves to be open-ended. System (dis) Integration.

This representation is very practical for addressing the system time perspective.
1) Any system is, always, a process.
2) The system time base is determined by the process loop length to the boundary of the system.
3) At the interface, the boundary processes are linked to the system as well as to its context. It is an interface of (time) bifurcation.
4) This puts all the processes in the system subordinate to the time base of its context. Any system can be understood to exist only as part of its context.


In Designing (and learning) we not only cross the boundary of the known, but also our self-definition.

The tetrahedron can be used to show what happens:

The designer has a personal realisation of what reality is like.
In relationship with others, this becomes complemented with the view of others.
As part of a group, the views of the individual become representative of and for others
As member of a collective, every person represents

1) the person – one worldview/opinion
2) the relationship : feed-forward and feedback
3) the interaction: one person relays what is heard from another
4) the integration: realising that reality is a realisation

These different levels of interaction represent different degrees of involvement, different nodes of consciousness, and thereby different forms of (self:realisation.

1) conscious – self image
2) subconscious – relationship responses
3) unconscious interactive reactions
4) out-of-conscious natural reflexes.

These forms of communication and interaction are built-in in our body. Customarily they are defined as:

1) Human behaviour
2) Animal reflexes
3) Vegetative response
4) Mineral reaction

In being representative for another, and for a group of others, a person needs to be transpersonal. The behaviour of the others need to be in-built into that person. The communication In representing others thereby transcends direct awareness also: subliminal, unrealised and deeply engrained patterns of behaviour all play a role and form part of the communication.

This can be seen in the way people respond; from and in different levels of their body
1) Head
2) Heart (feeling emotions: animal level)
3) Hara (gut level: vegetative system)
4) Holy bone (cell system: body response)

This is found also in our brain
1) Unique point perspective – forebrain
2) Analytical lines of thought – left brain
3) Synthesising a plane of understanding (?) the art plane of being) – right brain
4) Integrated integral realisation – hind brain

Any designer, teacher, politician, person thus needs to be aware of simultaneously functioning in these four roles of relating to the context.
This requires a conscious awareness of being human, animal, plant and part of Earth at the same time.

As the interaction with our environment shows, people do not realise that they are part of earth, part of humanity, part of society as well as being a unique responsible being.

In order to restore the integration of each unique being as part of society, humanity and earth all these different aspects of consciousness need to be realised, thus expressed, thus experienced, thus learned and trained.

As long is this is not learned, and as long as people do not operate at the different levels of consciousness at the same time, our interaction will be incomplete always.

This can be complemented by people working together.
The tetrahedron therein becomes a schematic for their forms of interaction.

From the schematic diagram of the tetrahedron it will be clear that when in a group the four points of perspective are represented by unique people representing the different levels of realisation, of consciousness, then there are 6 relationships between them, 4 planes of (shared) understanding and 1 common reality/realisation.

The schema thereby shows when reality becomes a shared realisation. It explains the basis for creating consensus: all persons are connected to their own individual point of realisation (head),
At the same time they experience a relationship to each of the three other modes of realisation (heart, hara, holy bone)
By this they are also involved in 3 planes of interaction within their context (animal, vegetative, mineral: interaction, processing, objectivation).
1 experience of reality is the result

The realisation of reality is thereby a simple schematic, which is at the same time 1) a spiral of learning, 2) a choice in relating, 3) a mode of interaction to produce a form of realisation (4)


The design product is healthy only if integrally embedded into the context

1) The realised (fore brain) object or process needs to be made for the world, not just of it
2) (left brain) Analytical thinking is not enough
3) It needs to be complemented with (right brain) perspective on its critical context conditions. (This is also the level for creating consensus)
4) The designer this needs to have realised, for the designed object, the same completion of embedding in context as personally lived.

It can be seen by the effects of design that designers are not aware of their embedding in their natural context: their experience at the individual level partially takes into account the experience of another (‘selling the product’). In part the experience of humanity (the design is a ‘social success’) and rarely that of the world (‘beneficial to the planet’).

In order to learn this integrative mode of thinking, within themselves , people need to learn to work together in groups (collaboration) as part of humanity, as part of the world.

School training depersonalises persons; this needs to be corrected: each person needs to be aware of their personal responsibility for the life they are living and creating.
They also need to know that and how it impacts on the life of others.
Also the realisation must be clear that their live is tied in with all life of the planet.

A form of learning is required in which this all comes together.
The synergy project offers the tools for social integration; thus operates at the third level.
It does this via a mode of communication, the 2nd level of the model
It can lead to meta-design only (the 4th level) of all people involved (the 1st level) learn to function in this integral manner. As art of the tool for synergy, new tools for learning need to be designed still. Working together needs to be a natural ‘reflex’ in which personal responsibility for the outcome at the same time also stands central.

(Again, this is why the tetrahedron is used as a model: it can have a 1) personal view, relationship, 2) group interaction of 3) consensus construct and 4) object of realisation, all at the same time.

There are therefore also four types of language:
Objective language, which related to objects (a 1-to-1 mapping). Nouns are its basis.
Relational indication, which refers to changing in/between states of objects. Objects , thus nouns, are no longer the object, but verbs are needed.
Interactions refer to variations of variations; this requires a transcendence up to the limitation of what can be said in words
Creation and newness are in the real beyond words. ‘Between the lines’ is the art of communication: the words no longer matter, but the pattern between them does. At this level of realisation, thought matters; literally.

To be completed

Otto van Nieuwenhuijze
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