Chat Synectics

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a Brainstorming Tool

Instructional Objective

The learners will be able to use the synectics to jump start the creative process and find "fresh" views to solving problems. This brainstorming tool will enable the learners to avoid "white fright," the fear of starting a creative piece, and will provide a method for gaining new insights into otherwise mundane or uncomfortable topics.

Background Information

Synectics (Gordon, 1961) is an approach to creative thinking that depends on understanding together that which is apparently different. Its main tool is analogy or metaphor. The approach, which is often used by groups, can help students develop creative responses to problem solving, to retain new information, to assist in generating writing, and to explore social and disciplinary problems. It helps users break existing minds sets and internalize abstract concepts. Synectics can be used with all ages and works well with those who withdraw from traditional methods (Couch, 1993). Teacher-facilitators can use synectics in the classroom by leading students to:

bulletDescribe the Topic: The facilitator selects a word or topic then asks students to describe the topic, either in small group discussions or by individually writing a paragraph; e.g., MUSIC.
bulletCreate Direct Analogies: The facilitator selects another word or topic then asks the students to generate a list that would have the same characteristics as those words or phases listed in Step 1 (a direct analogy is set up to make comparisons between the two words, images, or concepts). How are MUSIC and BIAS alike? Ask them to generate vivid mental images. Mental images are powerful tools in the process.
bulletDescribe Personal Analogies: Have students select one of the direct analogies and create personal analogies. Students "become" the object they choose and then describe what it feels like to be that object. How would it feel to be music that is biased?
bulletIdentify Compressed Conflicts: Ask the students to pair words from the list generated in Step 3 which seem to fight each other. Always have the students explain why they chose the words which conflict. Then have the students choose one by voting. How are auditory symbolism and personal inclination different?
bulletCreate a New Direct Analogy: With the compressed conflict pair voted upon by the students, ask them to create a different direct analogy by selecting something that is described by the paired words. How are auditory symbolism and personal inclination like a painting, poem, movie, political party, etc.?
bulletReexamine the Original Topic: Return to the original idea or problem so that the student may produce a product or description that utilizes the ideas generated in the process. They may concentrate on the final analogy or use analogies created in the other four steps (Gunter, et al., 1990).

For the same thing just different try the following. For best results go through each step, then put it away for a while, then go through the next step. Don't look at any list until you get to the last step, redefine.

bulletUse the dictionary to fully define the word(s).

Generate a list of words or topics that:

bulletare similar to the original word(s);
bulletdescribe what it would feel like to be the original word(s);
bulletare opposite to the original words(s);
bulletOnce again, are similar to the original word(s).
bulletLook at each list and find words that help you redefine the direction of your quest.


Couch, Richard (1993). Synectics and Imagery: Developing Creative Thinking Through Images. In: Art, Science & Visual Literacy: Selected Readings from the Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association (24th, Pittsburgh, PA. September 30 - October 4, 1992). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 363 330)

Gordon, W.J.J. (1961). Synectics. New York: Harper & Row.

Gunter, M.A., Estes, T.H. & Schwab, J.H. (1990). Instruction: A models approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon


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