Synectics: Essence, Principles and Stages

Etimology: The term Synectics was derived from the Greek words syn –meaning “ bringing together” and  ectikos meaning “diversity”, so synectikos  -means “bringing different things into unified connection” or “joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements”.

1. Authors
William J.J. Gordon (September 9, 1919 – June 30, 2003) was an American inventor and psychologist.

George M. Prince (April 5, 1918 – June 9, 2009) was one of the founders and Chairman of Synecticsworld (Synectics Inc.), one of the developers of  Synectics.

The primary ideas and assumptions of Synectics were born during studies of inventive and artistic creativity which William J. J. Gordon conducted since 1944. The basic principles and rules of Synectics  were developed by William Gordon and George Prince between 1950 and 1960 when  they worked together at Invention Design Group at Arthur D. Little. (ADL). In 1961 W. Gordon and his colleagues G. Prince, D. Sperry and C. Marden set up a new company called Synecticsworld (Synectics Inc.) to focus on inventive creativity and  innovation training.  Later W. Gordon left Synectics to explore the application of Synectics to education and founded the Synectics Education Systems.
Synectics is usually attributed to W. Gordon who published in 1961 his book ” Synectics: The Development of Creative Capacity”.

Another Seminal works: The Practice of Creativity (1967) by George M. Prince; Strange and familiar (1972) by  W. Gordon, T.Poze; The new art of the possible (1980) by W. Gordon, T.Poze.

3. Description  

Synectics  is a creative problem-solving and creativity technique  which aims to promote creative thinking and uncover new views to solving complex problems, by deliberate using analogies and metaphors within a carefully selected small group of diverse individuals.

4. Main functions   
1.Synectics is used for creating innovations and new products, searching for effective solutions in marketing and advertising, for improving students’ learning and increasing creativity and individual’s creative skills.
2. Synthetics is an effective method  of revealing and creating new connections and viewpoints,, a powerful technique for generating creative ideas and creative solutions to complex problems.

5. Methodological and theoretical grounds 
The basic world-views and methodological principles of Synectics are:
1. Universal principle of Unity (Oneness) or the principle of unity of the World.
2. The concept of universal connection between all objects, events and spheres of reality.
3. Principle of synergy as a novelty producing pattern that  refers to the two interrelated processes of differentiation and integration of parts ,
 that leads to the creation of novel whole which is bigger than the sum of its parts.
“The world is totally connected. Whatever explanation we invent at any moment is a partial connection, and its richness derives from the richness of such connections as we are able to make”
Jacob Bronowski (18 January 1908 – 22 August 1974), British mathematician,  poet and inventor
William  Gordon grounds synectics in main assumptions on creativity:
1. Creativity is important in everyday activities. Most of us associate the creative process with the development of great works of art or music, or perhaps with a clever new invention.
2. The creative process is not at all mysterious. It can be described, and it is possible to train persons directly to increase their creativity.
3. Creative invention is similar in all fields- the arts, the sciences, engineering- and is characterized by the same underlying intellectual processes.
W. Gordon set forth three fundamental precepts of synectic theory: 
1. By bringing the creative process to consciousness and by developing explicit aids to creativity, we can directly increase the creative capacity of both individuals and groups.
2. The emotional component is more important than the intellectual, the irrational more important than the rational component.
3. The emotional and irrational elements must be understood in order to increase the probability of success in a problem solving situation.
The author of Synectics also believed that individual and group creativity are analogous.
William Gordon proposed four psychological states that were connected with the inventive process
1. Detachment – Involvement.
2. Deferment.
3. Speculation.

4. Autonomy of Object.

6. The essence of the method
Integration and synergy:
The essential idea and key mechanism of Synectics session  is bringing together a diversity of people, joining together of different concepts, things and layers of reality, embracing emotions and intellect, irrational and rational components, both conscious and subconscious processes, left-brain and right-brain thinking,  deliberate efforts and free flight of imagination. This  multi-level synergetic unity leads to the birth of a new brilliant ideas that may be transformed into an effective solution to problem.
Synectics is a structured and much formalized creativity technique.  This technique combines a structured with the freewheeling approach to creativity as well as highly organised thought processes and free imagination. Synectics session is strict discipline  and free flowing,  directed search and spontaneous solutions.
Besides Synectic approach combine both a integrative and disruptive thinking. Creativity necessarily requires breaking already existing semantic connections. “It is a way of mentally taking things apart and putting them together to furnish new insight for all types of problems” (N.Roukes, 1988).
Synectic theory is based on synectic thinking which is  finding a likeness between things  and joining them into new structures, lateral thinking is concerned with the generation of new ideas, disruptive thinking s understood as breaking routine patterns,  existing minds sets and getting a new fresh vision.
Creativity is the marvellous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition.
Max Ernst (2 April 1891 – 1 April 1976) German painter, sculptor, and poet.

7. Fundamental principles
Refreshing metaphorical process based on the principle “Making the strange familiar and making the familiar strange” creates an opportunity for new and surprising solutions to emerge.
1. Make the Strange Familiar (analytical phase).

2. Make the Familiar Strange (creative phase).

8. Psychological or operational mechanisms and techniques
Four types of analogies are used as the basis of synectics play transform creativity in a conscious process.
1. Personal Analogy is the use of emotions and feelings to identify an individual with the subject of a problem.  It is also empathetic identification with a living and nonliving things. This kind of analogy  helps understand the problem from within on a new level.
2. Direct Analogy or example  is the  straight comparison between two objects, facts,  ideas, concepts or different fields.  Usually Nature is a useful source of an effective ideas.
3. Symbolic Analogy involves making use of objective and personal images to describe a problem. It can be compressed conflict, essential contradictory and  paradox or oxymoron  such as: thunderous silence,  open secret, cruel kindness.

3. Fantasy Analogy takes the most desirable solutions by setting aside all existing laws of nature, logic and common sense.  Such kinds of   fabulous solution release the inner censor and may lead to some further practical ideas.

Trigger questions
Besides one the best known synectic technique is the use of trigger questions, which can be used to prompt analysis and synthesis alike.
• Subtract – remove parts or elements; compress or make it smaller; what can be disposed or reduced?; can you break any rules?; can you simplify it?
• Add – extend or expand; augment, advance or annex it; magnify or add
• Transfer – move it to a new situation; adapt, transpose, relocate or dislocate; adapt to new frame or reference; move out of normal environment; how might subject be converted, translated or transfigured?
• Empathize – sympathize with the situation/subject; put yourself in its shoes; relate to subject emotionally and subjectively

• Miscellaneous – Animate, superimpose, change scale, substitute, fragmentate, isolate, distort, disguise, contradic, parody, prevaricate, analogize, hybridize, metamorphose, symbolize, mythologize, fantasize, repeat, combine.

9.Procedure  and Basic stages
A synectics group is made up of 6—8 people and includes a leader or facilitator, content expert, members who have been trained in the use of synectics.

The group leader or facilitator is responsible for cultivating an atmosphere of creative thinking,  for ensuring and for managing the time.  Leader should direct the process, not contribute ideas, suggestions or possible solutions. He writes  half-formed, wild and productive  ideas on the flip charts and encourages to record ideas down on notepads.

At present, the description of synectics techniques has been greatly simplified. In addition, along with the classic list of stages, there are several their abbreviated kinds.
Synectics is based on a simple concept for problem solving and creative thinking – you need to generate ideas, and you need to evaluate ideas.
1. A problem statement. The problem owner first describes the problem.
2. Goal orientation. Here one tries to view the problem situation in a variety of ways, so that one looks for a solution in the most appropriate direction.
3. Ideas generation on an excursion by using  personal analogy, direct analogy, symbolic analogy and fantasy analogy and applying the trigger questions to transform  ideas into something new.

4. Turning promising insights and transforming of the most productive ideas into final practical solutions.

 W. Gordon and G. Prince proposed five steps of synectics problem-solving process:
• 1. Problem as Given (PAG). The problem may be posed by an outside source or by an individual in the group.
• 2. Short Analysis of the PAG.  This step is a statement of the problem as presented by the participators, who attempt  analyzing and defining the problem.
• 3. Purge; Immediate Suggestions. The group clarifying the problem, participators will think of suggestions or solutions.
• 4. Problem as Understood (PAU).  Problem is stated as clearly as possible, and members of the group focus on it.

• 5. Excursion. In this stage of the process different kinds of analogies   are used.

Tony Proctor considered that a typical session might involve: (1999)
1. State and restate the problem.
2. Choose a keyword.
3. Take the keyword on an excursion into a different world — e.g. Nature — asking for examples of the keyword in that world.
4. Ask what it feels like to be that example in the different world — personal analogy.
5. See if any of the material listed so far gives insights into the problem.

6. If required, continue with more excursions.

There is also a more detailed and practical version of the steps of synectic process:
1. Identify the problem and write it down. Describe the problem in terms of wishes, that is, expressed as, “I wish…”.
 Describe the Topic.  The leader selects a word or topic then asks participants to describe the topic by individually writing a paragraph.
2. Provide factual information on the topic. Have participants discuss a theme and share their perceptions of the theme. The group generates as many solution approaches or springboards as possible. Springboards are not ideas for solutions, but  techniques for expanding a space for invention.  The most useful springboard  techniques are:  Analogies, Free Association, Images, Metaphors, Absurd ideas, Random Stimuli,  Drawing techniques, The essential paradox , Wishes,, etc. and  statements of the form: “I wish…”, “How to…”, “Why can’t we…”.
3. Invite participants to present a different kind of analogies.
a) encourage participants to suggest direct analogies. (Object is like a ….). Suggest some similarities between the two things.
b) Invite participants to use personal analogy. Ask them  to become part of the problem to be solved or the object being explored  Imagine you are the object. What would you feel, want and do?  Ask participants to describe what it feels like to be a object. How would you feel if you were the  explored object?
c). Ask  participants to present an symbolic analogy.
Encourage them to create a graphic or symbolic form of object or problem, to set up a new description, model, picture,  diagram,  image of the object.
 Ask participants to identify compressed conflicts by joining of  pair opposite paradoxical  words: involuntary willingness; balanced confusion; connected pauses.
d)  Have participants present an fantasy analogy. Ask them create a fairy tale. It may be the fantasy excursion as writing of a weird story which includes some keywords  – associations.
4. Choose the best analogies which present the problem or object in a new light and generate a fresh productive ideas.

5.Evaluate  and turn the most excellent insights and ideas into practical solution.

10. Advantages
1. Synectics provides a free-thinking state of consciousness and stimulates creative thinking.
2. Synectics helps participants move their thinking from the literal to non-literal.
3. Synectics mobilises both sides of the brain, the right brain, and the left brain.
4. Synectic Trigger mechanisms unlock rigid thinking patterns and catalyse new thoughts, ideas and inventions.
5. The technique creates an atmosphere of humor and play and ensures high involvement of participants in the creative process.
6. Teacher-facilitators can use synectics in the classroom by leading students.

7. Every person can free themselves to use synectics techniques and develop imagination and insight into everyday activities.

11. Restrictions and misadvantages 
1. Synectics is complicated technique which requires more time and effort.
2. There is the necessity of a trained leader for keep creative process in flow and finally for effective performance.
3. The success of the Synectics methodology depends highly on the skill of a professional leader -facilitator.
4. It requires mush preparation and efforts to compose a good synectic group. The method heavily depends on the participants, their knowledge, work experience, fantasy and creative imagination
5. Sometimes participants working individually with Synectics tools generate more qualitative ideas than those participants  together in a group.
6. The technique is not effective for work in big group.
7. The use of technique requires a lot of time
8. Companies very rarely apply synectics, because they think it is too complex and difficult.