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Synectics is a structured and efficient method of creative problem solving. It was first introduced
by William J.J. Gordon in 1960‘s as a technique to produce more refined solutions to the
In Synectics the problem is stated very broadly such that problem solvers have not even inkling
of the problem. Gradually as the discussion proceeds and perspectives are formed, facts of the
problem are revealed, making the solutions more refined and specific to the actual problem.
This technique proves to be time taking but effective than brainstorming which converges too
quickly. Gordon believed that fatigue, due to long sessions of Synectics , played a vital role in
This technique uses metaphorical and analogous information exchanges within a carefully
selected group of individuals of varying personalities and areas of specialization, with the team
leader playing a dominant role during the discussion. Synectics operates on the principal that, by
using the mind's remarkable capacity to connect seemingly irrelevant elements of thought, we
can spark surprising new ideas that may later be developed into feasible solutions to problems. It
gives us the ability to discover the links that unite seemingly disconnected elements. It is a way
of mentally taking things apart and putting them together to furnish new insight for all types of
Understand through example
How can the ABC company increase sales?
How can an entity get more of what it wants?
Problem stated to the group members:
From the field of farming, how can farmers increase their crop yields?
Genetic Engineering of Crops.
Use of pesticides.
Rotate the crops.
Use Organic methods.
Choose good land to start with.
Now, let's take one of these, "Rotate the Crops" and try to apply it to the ABC sales domain.
"Well, each crop has slightly different soil needs so growing the same crop in the same field will
ultimately deplete the soil of certain nutrients. Also, pests will come to be immune to whatever
pesticides are used if the same crop is grown in the same place.
In terms of ABC sales, we might map this as follows: "Each product fulfills certain customer
needs. By concentrating on the same product with the same customer, those needs will
eventually be satiated and other unmet customer needs are not being considered. Also, if we keep
going after the same customer with the same type solution, it will be easy for our competition to
target us. While if we kept coming up with solutions that met a different aspect of our customer's
needs, it would be hard for competition to target our approach."
Another aspect of Synectics is the very active role of the facilitator who not only encourages
ideas but also specifically introduces the several kinds of metaphor listed above in order to
encourage creative thinking.Use of metaphor lets Irrelevant, accidental things suggest analogies
that are sources of new viewpoints to the problem. Also the concept of making familiar strange
and strange familiar plays vital role over here.
Gordon described four major principles underlying the Synectics method, also known as
This state describes two ways in which a relationship is formed between the problem
solver and the problem. When a person understands and interacts with the element of a
problem,develops a resonance with the problem then it is called involvement. In
detachment the person thinks about the problem by becoming distant from it
Collection of viewpoints or perspectives before coming to the solution. Prevents
premature closure and entertains other possible solutions
Group members who are working on the problem should let their minds run free so that
they come up with solutions from very abstract ideas and hypothesis
• Autonomy of Object
Problem is not stated to the participants of the discussion, thus they start from a crude
discussion and go on building the problem as new facts are poured in by the leader. Thus
making the group come up with the most refine solution to the problem
Aforementioned psychological states are induced by operational mechanisms. Operational
mechanisms are utilized when someone is working on a problem to effectively reach any
psychological state. One of its functions is to make familiar strange in which a psychological
function is accomplished by increasing the ‘distance’ between the problem and the individual.
This increased distance enables the individual to avoid becoming stuck with what he already
knows about a problem and being limited to it.
These are described below:
• Personal Analogy
The individual imagines himself to be the object with which he is working. Gordon
believed that the critical element in personal analogy is empathic identification and not
mere role playing which is useless when working on a problem with a sociological or
psychological based problem.
• Direct Analogy or Example
It is the basic mechanism by which an individual tries to see problems in new contexts. A
direct analogy is clear and straight forward. It produces immediate results and its process
can be reproduced.
• Symbolic Analogy
This form of analogy uses objective and impersonal images to describe the problem. An
individual effectively uses symbolic analogy in terms of poetic response;he summons up
an image which, though technologically inaccurate, is aesthetically satisfying. It is a
compressed description of the function or elements of the problem as one views it (for
example one synectic group used the Indian rope trick as a basis for developing a new
• Fantasy Analogy
This is based on Freud’s idea that creative work represents wish fulfilment. for example,
the Synectics group that was working on a vapour proof closure for space suits asked the
question, “How do we in our wildest fantasies desire the closure to operate?” This form
of analogy is said to be very effective if used early in the process of making the familiar
strange. Gordon regards it as an excellent bridge between problem stating and problem
solving because it also tends to evoke the use of the other mechanisms.
Process of Synectics
The Synectics problem-solving process consists of three major segments. The first is devoted to
defining, elaborating, analyzing and understanding the problem. The second is devoted to
applying the different operational mechanisms, the metaphors and analogies, to the problem.
When this is completed the group tries to force a fit between what they have arrived at as a result
of applying the operational mechanisms and the problem on which the group was working.
hopefully, the result of the force fit is such that it either is a solution to the problem, a suggestion
that, can lead to a solution
• Problem Definition (brief about the problem)
• Short analysis of given problem
First two steps aim at analyzing and defining the problem. In this procedure the problem
or goal is hidden from the group and in its place the group is asked to discuss a matter
central to the goal. For example, In case of finding a solution for a can opener, the group
activity was initiated by the discussion on what ‘opening’ meant to the group. These steps
are supposed to ‘make the strange familiar’ as Gordon puts it.
3. Immediate Suggestions
At this early stage participants put forward their view or perspective of the problem
stated, thus it acts as the filtering stage for those ideas which are not at all streamlined
with the scope of the problem. Solutions produced at this level are not very valuable and
filtering of such solutions helps in clarification of the problem.
4. Problem as understood; Goals as understood
Some elements or aspect of the problem is selected for work and solution as more facts
about the actual problem are brought into light by the leader. These elements of the
problem are called as problem as understood. It is stated very clearly and the members of
the group focus on it.
During this stage the different operational mechanisms- the different kinds of analogies
are used. Essentially, it is during the excursion that the group tries to ‘make the familiar
strange’. The leader questions the members and tries to evoke responses to his requests
for different kinds of analogies.
Positives/Advantages of Synectic technique:
• Overcomes the tendency to come to closure on problem definition quickly
• Problem is fully understood before producing the final solution
• Encourages the ability to live with complexity and apparent contradiction
• Mobilizes both sides of the brain, the right brain (the dreamer), and the left brain (the
• Provides a free-thinking state of consciousness
• Trigger mechanisms catalyze new thoughts, ideas and inventions
Negatives of Synectic technique:
• The use of the technique is not immediate, the process might be time-taking
• Requires the user to be very much focused during all the process
• It doesn’t produce fine results when participants are reluctant to fantasize
• It works better for individual problem than for group problem
• Much efforts required from the leader of the group to keep the discussion in flow,
formulate the initial problem, the desired outcome
• W. J. J. Gordon, Synecticts: The Development of Creative Capacity, New York, Harper &
• Dr. Shaker Abdel Hamid Soliman, Systems and Creative Thinking
• Dr. Shaker Abdel Hamid Soliman, Systems and Creative Thinking