Re: Emergent Learning LO2164

Barry Mallis (
20 Jul 1995 09:03:20 -0400

Replying to LO215 --

Reply to: RE>>Emergent Learning LO2153

Andrew Moreno typed about Einstein's "hazy imagery."

This reminds me once again of the fascinating work done by W.J.J.Gordon of
SES Associates in Cambridge, MA. He and his partner, Tony Poze, wrote
extensively about a process of purposefully stimulating at a conscious
level what goes on implicitly in in everyone's creative subconscious.

In their "New Art of the Possible", W.J.J. Gordon, Porpoise Books,
Cambridge, MA, Gordon writes about what he has developed into the
"synectics process": "This is not to say that all activity in the process
takes place at a conscious level. On the contrary, the explicit steps of
the [synectics] process are consciously employed to titillate the

"In a subconscious state, one is not aware of what is going on; in a
preconscious state one is vague about what is going on; in a conscious
state, one knows exactly what is going on. Though one only can speculate
about what goes on in the subconscious, the SES [Associates] synectics
mechanisms are ways to listen to it and take advantage of its
power....Connection making was chosen as the basis..., for no matter what
else is involved in creative activity, a new connection must be made in
order to produce a new idea."

Having used their techniques in the classroom for years when I was a
teacher, I can vouch for their efficacy. In particular I liked Gordon's
use of two phrases: "Making the strange familiar", and vice versa "making
the familiar strange". These steps in and out, back and forth, are
superficial but evocative ways of describing the indescribable.

Gordon believes that every idea contains within it a paradox; that all new
ideas are a result of connection making (which, as a bonus, honors our
individuality by calling forth our personal experience stored in the "gray
matter"); that we can use an analog to first distance ourselves somewhat
from a problem of any kind (make the familiar strange), find a unique
quality of the analog which leads two steps further to a solution of the
actual problem.

Hay, I have a group problem for us to solve. Put on your caps, find the
paradox, provide what seems to be an unrelated analogy to the following
situation, then see if your analog contains within it a
quality/charactiertic/feature which promotes a leap of creativity back to
the problem. Here goes:

Company ABC established a suggestion box program. In the first place,
they needed all the good ideas they could get, especially in the area of
production efficiency. In the second place, it was considered by
management to be a good morale booster to encourage contributions from

>From the very beginning it worked too well. The system manager was
swamped with ideas, most of which were worthless or marginal. There was
no way in which her staff could find the time to evaluate all the
suggestions that were pouring in; so they designed some specifications
and limits. They sent out a memo stating that in the future all
suggestions must be not more than fifty words, typewritten, and signed by
the person's immediate superior. Keeping it down to fifty words meant
that it would be short enough to read. Having it typed meant that it
would be easy to read. And having it signed by a superior meant that at
least someone had done some screening.

All the new ideas dried up. The suggestion box was empty.

Typical problem, typical organization. What's your solution? In
suggesting one to this list of learners, first describe the paradox.
Using a two word paradox is optimal, though certainly not necessary e.g.
cold fire, or creative destruction. Your paradox is stated something like
this: "The more lobsters reared in a small space, the fewer lobsters there
are to sell." Here, the operational words are: "The more, the fewer."

Your paradox statement captures this problem. Now close your eyes, let
your mind "wander", and find an analog. Following the lobster example,
something like "an overgrown flower patch where weeds and grasses are
overwhelming the perennials".

I'll leave it at this for now, and see if we have any takers up to this
point. I do NOT have the answer to this. I do know about the steps
involved, and will be happy to demonstrate the concept further if there's

Happy days,

Barry Mallis