Creative Problem Solving
Synectics in Education?
Lori Tanner & Cindy Jennings
• If knowledge can create problems, it is not
through ignorance that we can solve them.
• Isaac Asimov
• Ultimate solutions to problems are rational, the
process of finding them is not
• William
• Strange words simply puzzle us; ordinary
words convey only what we know already. It is
from metaphor that we can best get hold of
something fresh.
• Aristotle
Synectics-Ahh What?
• syn-ec•tics \ si-'nek-tiks \ noun:
• Greek roots : diverse elements together
• A theory or system of problem-stating and
problem-solution based on creative thinking
that involves free use of metaphor and analogy
in informal interchange within a carefully
selected group of individuals of diverse
personality and areas of specialization.
History of Synectics
• Break off from Arthur D Little (high tech
consulting firm) & MIT Inventors on Demand
– William Gordon
– George Prince
• R&D
• Problem solving
Gordon’s Assumptions
• Creativity is important in everyday activities
• Process of creating is not mysterious
• Creative invention is the same in all fields
• Creative thinking and invention are similar
• The emotional component of creativity is
often more important than the intellectual; the
irrational more important than the rational
Blocks to Creativity
• One right answer
• Not logical
• Rules
• Practical
• Concise
• A whack on the side of the head!
Creative Problem Solving
• Climate that invites speculative thinking safe
from criticism or punishment
• Methodology that stimulates ideas
Task  Idea  Development
• Creative thinking
Synectics Principles
• Make the strange familiar
• Make the familiar strange
Synectics Technology of
• Metaphors
• Analogies
• Compressed conflicts
• Thinking-Outside-The box
Facilitator/Group Dynamics
• Facilitator distance from topic/problem
• Hierarchy power issues
• Heterogeneous group
• Environment comfortable
• Irrational, impossible, ridiculous, outrageous,
illegal, immoral, insane ALL valued in the process
Basic Steps
Describe topic/problem
Create direct analogies
Describe personal analogies
Identify compressed conflicts
Create new direct analogy
Reexamine original topic/problem
Stretching Exercises
• How is a car like the earth?
• How is a computer keyboard like Jello?
• If the ocean were a sea of professors, what
would the foam be?
More Mind Exercise
• What does it feel like to be a 1971 Britannica
Encyclopedia S ?
Come on…Get out of the box!
• Know anyone who is an “exquisite irritant?”
• How is an embargo like “vulnerable
Process is demanding
Multiple steps
Facilitator may not know the problem before
the brainstorming sessions
• Facilitator will not know the resulting
solution(s) or creative ideas
New inventions
Problem is solved
Group commitment to idea
Unique perspectives surface
Creative thinking encouraged

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