Synectics: A Brainstorming Tool
syn-ec•tics \ si-'nek-tiks \ noun: 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
William J.J. Gordon & George Prince developed the synectics approach to problem solving in 1960. They observed that business meetings had inconsistent results. After hours of studying tapes from meetings, they determined the success factor to be free-form brainstorming. This brainstorming process in an open, non-judgmental climate paired with analogies and metaphors led to more creativity and innovation. Gordon later adapted synectics for classroom use. Orientation of Synectics
Gordon based synectics on the concept that traditional thought should be challenged. His theory is based on four goals and assumptions that revolve around creativity. Creativity is important in the problem solving process, creativity is not mysterious, creative invention is similar in all fields, and individual & group invention are similar. The synectics approach is based on the psychology of this creativity. Creative capabilities can be developed; creativity is an emotional process that aids intellectual processes, and understanding the irrational aids in problem solving success. Synectics incorporates metaphors and analogies to promote creativity. Direct analogies are based on the comparison of seemingly unrelated topics, ideas, objects, etc. Personal analogies enhance understanding when the participant is asked to become the topic, idea, object, etc. Compress conflict is the comparison of opposing statements or terms. A full synectics approach would include a step-by-step process using each of these analogies in a particular pattern. However, some lesson objectives or time frames do not need or permit full synectics. In these cases, stretching exercises may be used. Stretching exercises use the metaphoric activities individually or in combination. For example, a group involved in athletic shoe design may concentrate on the personal analogy (Imagine yourself as a running shoe.) to generate new design ideas. They may or may not be used in relation to specific problem solving issues. A teacher may wish to simply stimulate student thinking at the start of class. Aspects of Teaching Synectics
With synectics, the teacher becomes the facilitator. Competency in this process by the teacher is imperative. Students experience intrinsic rewards through satisfaction and pleasure in leading and learning from the activity. Teachers and students must remember that all ideas, regardless of how far-fetched or bizarre they may seem, must be accepted. Non-judgment is key to success in this process. Teachers must guide students away from making premature analysis for the problem being solved. Synectics can be used across the curriculum or as part of interdisciplinary learning. Applications are numerous and include creative writing, exploring social problems, problem solving, creating a design or product, and scientific investigations. Other academic benefits include broadening concept perspectives and understanding, correcting misconceptions, and generalizing learning. The synectics process is both instructional and nurturing to its participants. Instructional effects include promotion of cohesion and productivity in the classroom, development of tools for metaphoric thinking, and increased problem solving capabilities. Nurturant effects include development of positive self-esteem in students, increased risk-taking by participants, and higher achievement of curricular content. General Guidelines for Synectics
Regardless of whether the full synectics model, stretching exercises, or a modified version of the model is used, there are general guidelines for the teacher to ensure success of the process. The classroom...
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