Definition Synectics. Description.
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.?
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.
Synectics Special Interest Group
Special Interest Group (6 members)
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Lateral Thinking |
Thinker's Keys | Abilene Paradox |
Paralysis by Analysis
| Brainstorming |
| Tacit Knowledge
| Gestalt Theory |
Mind Mapping |
Six Thinking Hats
| Metaplan |
| Causal Ambiguity
| Stage-Gate |
Scenario Planning |
Game Theory |
Root Cause Analysis |
Dialectical Inquiry |
Theory of Constraints
| Force Field Analysis
| Catalytic Mechanisms
| Johari Window
| Delphi Method
Special Interest Group Leader