Synectics and Creativity Equal Problem-Solving

July 9, 2019
When someone has a problem they must solve, their creativity and mental processes aimed at this resolution are unconscious. Synectics studies them and turns them into applicable problem-solving methodologies. Read on to learn more!

When it comes to synectics, creativity, and problem-solving, the brain is like the tip of the iceberg: we can only perceive a small part of the whole. Thus, when this organ is facing a problem, then it must solve it. A considerable part of the mental processes that lead to this resolution is unconscious and this is where synectics plays a role.

The name synectics derives from the Greek synektikós that means “the joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements”. It’s a creative methodology for the solution of problems. Furthermore, one of its objectives is to take advantage of the characteristics of this type of processing. That is, to brainstorm and come up with a problem-solving method based on experiences.

The final problem-solving strategy that’s applied in the end comes, to a large extent, from computations that you’re not aware of.

The Scamper Method

Three people brainstorming.

From a historical perspective, the method of synectics for creativity purposes originated in the works of Arthur D. Little during the beginning of the second half of the 20th century. Based on those investigations, scientists George M. Prince and William J.J. Gordon finalized this technique with all of its characteristics and strategic components.

The first etymology of the term corresponds to the Greek word that designates the concept of “the union and conjunction of apparently different and irrelevant elements among themselves”.

Today, after filling an important gap in organizational and work environments, this term is an extended synonym for the solution of problems from a group point of view and through the use of creativity as a nuclear strategy. Thus, it honors the meaning of its name, since it’s through synectics that creative solutions are obtained. They aren’t explained by the mere sum of their components.

Synectics and Creativity: Characteristics and Techniques

Synectics, conceived as a theory, involves the integrated action of several people who, from a group configuration, address the approach and the solution of various problems. As we mentioned above, it relies heavily on human creativity and makes conscious use of preconscious mental mechanisms. That’s where its true functionality lies.

The goal pursued by the implementation of this technique is an increase in the probability of successful problem-solving. However, this probability varies depending on how generable the innovation is. Also, based on the synergic effect of the members of the group.

If the agreed solution has a rather circumscribed field of application, then the benefits of the creative novelty that defines the essence of the joint solution to the problem diminish. Therefore, sought solutions should be as innovative as they are enforceable.

Synectics and Creativity are Based on the Following Premises:

  • The same psychic processes mediate the phenomenon of the invention of solutions in any discipline. Be it more artistic or more scientific.
  • The innovative process is a creative process that’s concretely defined and described and is also trainable and understandable.
  • Both an individual and a group of people undertake the creative process in a similar way. However, the resulting hypotheses of the first complement those of the latter.

“You can do what I can’t do. I can do what you can’t do. Together we can do great things.”

-Mother Teresa-

Synectics tries to put aside what we already know and gives way to what we find odd. It’s for this reason that the technique strives to take us to creative and innovative solutions as far removed from the usual ones.

A man with many doubts.

Synectics confronts the individual with their own mental processes that underlie rational thought. It puts them in contact with the mental contents hidden way back in their subconscious.

Analogies

To put these mechanisms into play, there are at least five phases or techniques. These are at the center of what many know as “analogy”. Their aim is to contemplate the multiple facets of the same issue in order to get away from the most expected and common solutions. The techniques are:

  • Direct analogy. Through a direct comparison between problems. It aims to extract the problem from its context and situate it in a different set of circumstances. The purpose is to contemplate it more broadly and freely.
  • A personal analogy. Individuals raise the problem in the first person to achieve identify with it. Thus, you get to empathize with the problem in order to resolve it and identify the emotions involved in the matter.
  • Contrary analogy. The objective is to get away from the problem by finding concepts that are contrary to it. This way, the problem in question can be defined and new perspectives on it can be then adopted.
  • Symbolic analogy. The problems are specified in this phase in a reduced set of words of poetic essence. Reaching defining keywords that in themselves may be able to initiate lines of debate never raised before.
  • Fantastic analogy. A situation similar to the problem but from a fantasy perspective. In a way somewhat separated from concrete and logical thinking. To give a new direction to our ways of thinking.

In short, the application of these techniques can lead to different thoughts and brings us closer to the unusual. Thus, it makes it possible to obtain innovative and effective solutions, far beyond what a simple brainstorming session would allow us to achieve.