Synectics

The term Synectics from the Greek word synectikos which means "bringing forth together" or "bringing different things into unified connection."

Since creativity involves the coordination of things into new structures, every creative thought or action draws on synectic thinking.

Creative behaviour occurs in the process of becoming aware of problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies, bringing together in new relationships available information; identifying the missing elements; searching for solutions, making guesses, or formulating hypotheses.
- E Paul Torrance

Creativity is the marvellous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition - Max Ernst

A man becomes creative, whether he is an artist or scientist, when he finds a new unity in the variety of nature. He does so by finding a likeness between things which were not thought alike before - Jacob Bronowski

Buckminster Fuller summed up the essence of Synectics when he said all things regardless of their dissimilarity can somehow be linked together, either in a physical, psychological or symbolic way.

Synectic thinking is the process of discovering 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 problems.

William Gordon set forth three fundamental precepts of synectic theory:

  1. Creative output increases when people become aware of the psychological processes that control their behaviour
  2. the emotional component of creative behaviour is more important than the intellectual component; the irrational is more important than the intellectual component
  3. the emotional and irrational components must be understood and used as "precision: tools in order to increase creative output.

Three Lessons

1. The Synectic Attitude

In a free-thinking state, analogies between perceptions, concepts, or even systems and abstractions tend to occur repeatedly. - Silvano Arieti

Creativity demands flexibility and imaginativeness but also tightly organised thought processes, matched by a high degree of emotional and psychological freedom. - R. L. Razik

2. The Synectic Trigger Mechanisms

The creative process is a matter of continually separating and bringing together, bringing together and separating, in many dimensions - affective, conceptual, perceptual, volitional and physical - Albert Rothenberg

3. The Synectic Ways of Working

The world is totally connected. Whatever explanation we invent at any moment is a partial connection, and its richness derives from the richness of such connections as we are able to make. - Jacob Bronowsku

The Synectic Pinball Machine

Synectic thinking is like a mental pinball game. Stimulus input bounced against the scoring bumbers (the Trigger Questions) is transformed. Ordinary perceptions are turned into extraordinary ones; the familiar or prosaic is made strange. Synectic play is the creative mind at work.

Let's get started!

Ideas are not born in a vacuum. First of all, you must identify the problem you have and write it down. Next, you must gather information about it to mix in with the information already stored in the brain.

Now do something. Take creative action by using the Trigger Questions to transform your ideas and information into something new. These questions are tools for transformational thinking and may lead you to some great discoveries.


Books

Design Synectics - Stimulating Creativity in Design
Nicholas Roukes, Published by Davis Publications 1988.
Synectics by W.J.Gordon (possibly out of print)
The Practice of Creativity by Gordon Prince.

Software

The Axon Idea processor contains a set of Synectics questions as part of its checklist system.

MacSynectics is a Hypercard stack (for Apple Macintosh) of trigger questions allowing the user to be presented with questions at random, and to record the ideas generated during the session. Go to the Hypercard Software section.


Last updated: 5th April 1997