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:
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.
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:
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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!