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At the Creativity Centre, we have been researching and delivering courses on creativity development for well over 20 years and we especially value informal creativity development which may happen by accident or design in educational institutions, other organisations or everyday life.In this paper, the focus is on four ‘formal’ or ‘deliberate’ creative problem solving programmes:

  • Synectics
  • The Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Program (CPS)
  • The De Bono programme
  • KJ Ho

These programmes have been selected for review because they are widely used in one or more countries and/or because they have spawned a great many related creative problem solving programmes. Here, the term ‘problem solving’ is used in its psychological sense of ‘resolving anything puzzling or unclear’. This is a key function of all thinking and active learning, equally applicable to creativity in the arts, sciences, humanities and indeed life in general. This psychological notion of ‘a problem’ is different from its everyday definition in that it doesn’t necessarily imply anything negative. The first two programmes are of US origin and have spawned thousands of other programmes. De Bono’s work has had a significant impact too and is probably the best known in the UK, whilst KJ Ho is the most popular formal programme in Japan. All four programmes have specific procedures and terminology and whilst these differ, there are some similarities as well.


Thursday, 24 October 2013 11:25

Creativity Live - review of the experiment

The purpose of the experiment was to find out whether it was possible to apply the Synectics creative problem-solving techniques to a live issue through the medium of the online creativity journal. As the facilitator of the session, my conclusion is a highly qualified 'Yes': the Problem Owner did get some new ideas which she is trying to implement and seems more optimistic about achieving something in her chosen field than she was at the start of the session. Since that is the purpose of the experiment, it has to be seen as a success.

We were able to follow the basic Synectics structure of a Briefing from the Problem Owner, followed by the generation of Springboards, selection by the Problem Owner of attractive springboards and development by the Problem Owner of new courses of action they intended to implement.

However, as a demonstration of the Synectics technique, it left a lot to be desired and highlighted the huge differences between a live, face to face session and an online session using written inputs only. Synectics works by creating an emotionally safe climate in which people are willing to take risks, speculate, trigger off one another and generally have fun (I used to regard the amount of laughter as an indicator of the emotional energy of the group). None of that was achieved in the experiment, for a variety of reasons:

  • contributions were in words only and lacked the extra dimensions of tone of voice and non-verbals
  • the pace was slow, lacking the immediacy of interaction of a face to face session
  • the mechanics of contributing through a moderated journal were clumsy – the medium of 'Comments' was particularly unsuitable for contributing ideas in a suspended judgement environment (the word Comment suggests an opinion!)
  • there was no scope for using the Synectics 'excursion' techniques, which are one of the distinguishing features of the process.
  • similarly, the Idea Development phase of the process (where speculative ideas are developed into feasible solutions by constructive feedback from the Problem Owner) did not arise, because the Problem Owner did not choose speculative Springboards.

The experiment brought home to me how much the process depends on real-time coaching of the Problem Owner by the facilitator, so that the Problem Owner can contribute most effectively to stimulate imaginative springboards. At the crucial selection stage, the facilitator can encourage the Problem Owner to take risks in pursuing speculative lines of thought; this was more difficult to achieve remotely.

Published in Creativity live
Monday, 02 September 2013 22:45

Creativity Live: Synectics in action

Our Creativity Live Synectics experiment is now concluded - have a look below to see how Synectics works and see how it helped our problem owner, Denise Salmon...

How it worked

We had an opportunity for readers to apply their creative problem-solving abilities to a real live problem. Denise Salmon from Jamaica agreed to present her problem as ‘Problem Owner’ and we asked readers to act as resources/helpers by contributing their thoughts under the ‘suspend judgement’ convention.

Published in Creativity live

Have a look below at this brand new video from Synectics Education Initiative. 'Build - Don't Criticise' is Part One of a series of videos currently being developed.

Thanks to our Review Panel member Vincent Nolan for sharing this with us.

Published in News and Events
Tuesday, 16 April 2013 23:28

What's your problem?!?

We're launching our Creativity Live project and we need YOUR problems to solve!

We are looking for some real life problems to solve and we would love to hear your ideas. Much as we'd all love world peace or an end to global warming, we need to identify problems that have Problem Owners - ie. someone who can take our ideas and actually put them into practice.

So if you would like creative people from around the world work on your problem or challenge - or if you know someone who might need our help, please post your ideas on the Creativity Live page, or if you prefer, you can use our Facebook page, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Tweet them to us @CreativityJourn. There's great potential here for us to work together to really help a person or community to solve a difficult challenge.

Vincent Nolan, an internationally recognised expert in the Synectics creative problem solving process, has generously offered to facilitate the process once we've identified a problem to solve. We're really looking forward to seeing your ideas!

PS. Thanks very much to those of you who submitted ideas in our first experiment - there were some great ideas and we'll definitely try them out!

Published in News and Events
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