Imagine That! is a collection of thought pieces, stories, and articles by current and former staff members, clients and other associates that guides readers through 50 years of Synectics, its Body of Knowledge and its impact on clients, organizations, communities and individuals. It was edited by Connie Williams, General Managing Partner and Chief Knowledge Officer of Synecticsworld and Vincent Nolan, retired Chairman of Synectics Europe and author of many other books, including The Innovator’s Handbook (Sphere Books, 1989).


The below article is a taken from a chapter of Imagine That!


Vincent Nolan

Vincent Nolan, Former Chairman of Synectics Europe

By Vincent Nolan

Synectics is usually classified as a Creative Problem-Solving (CPS) Technique along with Brainstorming and Lateral Thinking. So what does Synectics, as a CPS technique, have in common with Brainstorming and the others? And how does it differ?

An independent answer to that question is provided by Dr. John Martin of the Open University in the UK. In his notes for the Creative Management module of their MBA Course in 1997, he wrote: “In practice, different schools of creativity training borrow from one another. The more elaborate forms of creative problem-solving, such as the Buffalo CPS method (basically brainstorming), incorporate quite a number of features found in Synectics. However there is still a discernible split between the ‘psychological’ approaches such as Synectics that emphasize metaphor, imagery, emotion, energy etc. and ‘procedural’ approaches that concentrate on private listings, round robins etc..  Of course practitioners can combine these techniques, but there is often a discernible bias towards one or other end of the spectrum” Brainstorming was the original Creative Problem-solving Technique, developed in the 1930s by Alex Osborn (the O of the advertising agency BBDO) and further developed by Professor Sidney Parnes of the Buffalo Institute. The Osborn-Parnes model is the most widely practised form of brainstorming, though the word has become a generic term for any attempt to generate new ideas in an environment of suspending judgement. It may include elements of other techniques, such as de Bono’s Lateral Thinking.

George Prince described Brainstorming as “the great breakthrough in creativity techniques; it demonstrated for the first time how much the fear of critical judgement inhibits the expression of ideas”. Even so, in brainstorming sessions (and in the Osborn-Parnes model) participants remain relatively inhibited and try to produce ‘good’ ideas, by ‘correctly’ understanding the problem and filtering out any ideas that might be considered absurd (‘good’ and ‘correct’ are clearly judgemental words) Synectics widens and deepens the process of suspending judgement in a variety of ways …

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