Re: Emergent Learning LO2214

Richard Karash (
Mon, 24 Jul 1995 23:22:12 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO2164 --

On 20 Jul 1995, Barry Mallis wrote:

> 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":
> 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.
[...more snipped...]

I've used and explored these ideas in a slightly different setting which
involves another use of the same name "Synectics" (coincidence or
collaboration, I don't know).

Since the 70's, Synectics, Inc. in Cambridge Mass, has specialized in
group problem solving. They run meetings and teach leaders how to do so
with their techniques. There is a book by George Prince entitled (approx)
"The Practice of Creativity" which documents the method as of the mid

Part of their method is familiar and obvious: get people away from the
problem, take advantage of the fact that people sometimes get their best
ideas while shaving or concentrating on something else. Synectics has a
variety of methods for taking people on an "excursion" as they term it.
The result is a list of "crazy" ideas, ideas for unrealted problems, and
other notions.

The next part is less obvious: Push to find or adapt something from the
crazy ideas list that can actually be used to solve the real problem.
They call this the "force fit" step. I find the results are impressive.
When people actually try to make the fit, constraints are relaxed,
assumptions dropped, and more. I think this is a real gem when looking
for new and better solutions.

I had training from Synectics, Inc. in the 70's and have been using it
formally and informally ever since. I find it very complementary to the
facilitation skills I've encountered in the past few years as a Learning
Organization practitioner.

In a separate message, I asked Barry Mallis if W.J.J. Gordon and Synectics,
Inc. were related. Neither of us know of a formal relationship, but the
methods are certainly related.

         Richard Karash ("Rick") |  <>
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