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Risk creativity, innovative, innovation, change management, Synectics, creative process

George M. Prince, Founder of Synectics

By George M. Prince

Great achievers and great organizations thrive in environments that allow and promote risk taking. The challenge for trainers is, then, how to create a risk-taking environment, and this is a difficult task to accomplish.

Risk is something that a sensible, prudent person seeks to reduce, or avoid, especially as it relates to their livelihood. It is a word that carries the connotation of danger and injury.

Webster defines risk as: “The possibility of loss, injury, disadvantage, or destruction.”

Theoretically, I believe it would be useful to change the concept of risk to one of experimentalism and innovation. The connotation is then one of learning rather than one of danger and loss. Webster defines experimental as: “An act or operation carried out to discover some unknown principle or effect or to test, establish or illustrate some suggested or known truth.”

This definition is easily related to learning, an activity most of us applaud (and some of us seek). Thus, an experiment is really no more than learning a new way to do something. Based on this theory, I would retitle the trainer’s challenge from “how to create a risk-taking environment” to “how to create an experiment-oriented environment.”

A desirable experiment-oriented environment is one where people believe they have the freedom, in fact, the mandate, from their employers to experiment and to discover ways to improve the operation.

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2 Comments

  1. The power of positive goals

    I have always marveled at the insights and brilliance of George Prince every time I read an article by him. Now, after completing my studies in neuroscience to understand the mysteries of creativity better, I admire and appreciate his insights even more. From various complex human interactions, he had the ability to disect and diagnose the issue at the heart of the problem. And yet he described these all too familiar everyday situations with the simplicity and clarity we can relate to. The brilliance of the this article is how he articulates something so simple yet so profound. Goals.

    The brain responds to situations and people either as reward or threat, and we behave accordingly – moving “toward” it to embracing it or “away” to avoiding it.

    The brain really loves the anticipation of goals – and loves it even more when the goals have been reached. A common mistake companies (or people) make is to have “away” goals; Losing weight is an “away” goal. So is “down-sizing”; As someone said ” I have never seen an organisation down-sizing itself into greatness”. “Risk-embracing’ plainly confuses the brain. Is it toward, or away? The brain reacting stronger to “away”, is more likely to see this as an “away” goal.

    George Prince’s brilliance in this article demonstrates the power of “toward goals. Coining the phrase of “experiment-oriented” is such a strong positive “toward” goal. One can’t help wanting to be part of the experiment team, to explore, play, discover, maybe even blow up a few things and hoping that the worst one will say is “oops!” . It conjures the sense of being part of the “Myth Busters” teams, if any of you have watched this programme.

    I think we can learn a lot from George’s insight of the power of positive goals, supported by the recent discoveries in neuroscience. And it can be applied to all areas of our lives not only to the work place.

    Lu-Marie Sobey

  2. JaneEllenMelcher

    The following is a quote I believe George would have liked for its affirming nature.

    “Failure is simply an educational episode – a cultural experiment in the acquirement of wisdom – in the experience of the God-seeking man who has embarked on the eternal adventure of the exploration of a universe.” [May substitute “God-seeking” for “Perfection-seeking or “self-mastery-seeking”, if one so wishes.]

    [Because Synectics both teaches and believes in “crediting” an author, and because doing so is not only informative but just due acknowledgment, as well, it’s appropriate to say that the above quote comes from The Urantia Book, which I became a part-time student of back in ’75, when I was working at Synectics, Inc., in Cambridge. It is one of their “Thought(s) To Ponder, which I receive in my E-mail on a daily basis.]

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