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What is Synectics? Meaning.

Synectics is an approach by Gordon (1960) to creative thinking that depends on understanding together that which is apparently different. Its main tool is analogy or metaphor. The approach, which is often used by workgroups, can help workgroup members develop creative responses to problem solving, to retain new information, to assist in generating writing, and to explore problems. It helps users break existing minds sets and internalize abstract concepts.


George Prince and William J.J. Gordon had been part of Arthur D. Little Inc.'s Invention Design Group, a consulting practice responsible for helping companies develop new product concepts. Puzzled by why some meetings were much more fertile than others, Gordon and Prince believed it had less to do with the people in the room and more to do with the dynamics that were operating unbeknownst to those people in the room.

To understand those dynamics, Prince and Gordon taped thousands of hours of new product development meetings. They studied how people were interacting. The tapes revealed significant differences in meetings that generated inventions and those that didnít. They then turned their observations into methods that replicated the techniques used informally by successful inventors and entrepreneurs.

The term Synectics comes from the Greek word synectikos which means "bringing forth together" or "bringing different things into unified connection."


William Gordon set forth three fundamental precepts or assumptions of synectic theory:

  • Creative output increases when people become aware of the psychological processes that control their behavior.

  • The emotional component of creative behavior is more important than the intellectual component; the irrational is more important than the intellectual component.

  • The emotional and irrational components must be understood and used as "precision: tools in order to increase creative output.


Typical steps in a synectics process are:

  1. Describe the Topic. The facilitator selects a word or topic then asks workgroup members to describe the topic, either in small group discussions or by individually writing a paragraph; e.g., MUSIC.

  2. Create Direct Analogies. The facilitator selects another word or topic then asks the workgroup members to generate a list that would have the same characteristics as those words or phases listed in Step 1 (a direct analogy is set up to make comparisons between the two words, images, or concepts). How are MUSIC and BIAS alike? Ask the workgroup members to generate vivid mental images. Mental images are powerful tools in the process.

  3. Describe Personal Analogies. Have workgroup members select one of the direct analogies and create personal analogies. Workgroup members "become" the object they choose and then describe what it feels like to be that object. How would it feel to be music that is biased?

  4. Identify Compressed Conflicts. Ask the workgroup members to pair words from the list generated in Step 3 which seem to fight each other. Always have the workgroup members explain why they chose the words which conflict. Then have the workgroup members choose one by voting. How are auditory symbolism and personal inclination different?

  5. Create a New Direct Analogy. With the compressed conflict pair voted upon by the workgroup members, ask them to create a different direct analogy by selecting something that is described by the paired words. How are auditory symbolism and personal inclination like a painting, poem, movie, political party, etc.?

  6. Reexamine the Original Topic. Return to the original idea or problem so that the workgroup members may produce a product or description that utilizes the ideas generated in the process. They may concentrate on the final analogy or use analogies created in the other four steps.

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Introduction Into Synectics

Synective, Creative Thinking
This presentation gives a clear introduction into Design Synectics and includes the following sections: 1. Definition o...

Creative Thinking Techniques and Creative Problem Solving Methodologies

Creativity, Innovation Management
This presentation elaborates on the concept of creative thinking. It pays particular attention to the multiple methodolo...

Generating Ideas: Concept Generation Methods

Idea Generation, Brainstorming, 6-3-5 Method, Brain-writing, Theory of Incentive Problem Solving, TIPS, TRIZ
This presentation about idea generation provides a clear description of an idea generating process. The presentation in...

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Compare with: Lateral Thinking  |  Thinker's Keys  |  Abilene Paradox  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Paralysis by Analysis  |  Brainstorming  |  Technological Forecasting  |  Tacit Knowledge  |  Gestalt Theory  |  TRIZ  |  Mind Mapping  |  Six Thinking Hats  |  Metaplan  |  Bounded Rationality  |  Causal Ambiguity  |  Stage-Gate  |  Scenario Planning  |  Game Theory  |  Root Cause Analysis  |  Dialectical Inquiry  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Theory of Constraints  |  Force Field Analysis  |  Catalytic Mechanisms  |  Johari Window  |  Delphi Method  |  Storytelling

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