Project Management

Synectics, creative problem-solving

last edited by: Lenka Pincot on Oct 28, 2018 10:05 AM login/register to edit this page



Synectics is a method that works with problem analogies and put them in a different, seemingly not at all linked, environment. Method is based on assumption that people are more creative when they understand how creativity works.

Synectics comes from the Greek language and “the joining together of different and apparently irrelevant elements”. Originators of the method are George M. Prince and William J.J. Gordon who formed company called Synectics to practice this problem-solving approach.


  • It brings “out of the box” thinking. This method is particularly useful when your team happens to be stuck and cant’s see any solutions that were not tried or discussed already.
  • You may use the method for any size of your team. As any other group technique, it works the best in a smaller group, around 7-10 people. If you have bigger team you may split them in several groups and combine their outputs afterwards.
  • It is energizing for the teams and often funny while the results are still delivered. The fun part comes when the teams when they are formulating analogies to the problem. Analogies may come from whatever environment or situation they choose.


Step 1 Name your problem Naming of the problem is often the critical part of any problem-solving exercise. If your team is not clear on what is the problem, use 5 Whys method (in short, asking 5 times in a row why the certain situation occurred until is the right problem uncovered).

Example: We often misunderstand customer requirements and spend too much time working on wrong SW functionalities.

Step 2 Brainstorm analogies to your problem Transfer your problem statement to another problem, brainstorm analogies that describe the problem principle in different environment or circumstances. Be creative at this step and encourage any ideas, this is the fun part. Analogy does not have to be from the same industry, business context or have any relation to the scope of your project. What counts is the principle of the problem to which you create the analogy.

Example: I don’t understand what my mom wants me to do and then I do something else which she does not consider helping. | The vending machine does not react to the numbers I push and then I get a wrong snack. | I’m buying the best food I can for my cat but she does not appreciate that.

Step 3 Let the team(s) pick up the analogy they like the most After the team brainstormed several analogies, let them decide on which they will work further. You may reach consensus by discussion or use any voting technique.

Example: I’m buying the best food I can for my cat but she does not appreciate that.

Step 4: Brainstorm ideas how to solve the analogy problem Remind everyone to forget about the original problem that the team was supposed to solve. The whole group now focus on the new problem, the selected analogy. Let the team brainstorm potential solutions for the problem analogy. Give them enough time to switch their minds to the new problem to ensure they do not relate their thinking to the original issue. Follow the common brainstorming rules to encourage everyone to participate and don’t dismiss any ideas.

Example: Let the cat taste samples before you buy the whole bag Let the cat cook by himself Let the cat write her own cookbook Teach your cat sign language so that she can point out what she likes for lunch Ask other people who have cats to learn with what they have success Pick up flavors the cat likes and mix them for her lunch.

Step 5: Translate the brainstormed solutions back to the context of the original problem Here comes the most important part. The group is now instructed to look at the brainstormed solutions for the problem analogy and transfer the solutions ideas to potential solutions of the original problem. Help to facilitate the discussion by focusing on following the solution principles.

Example: Pick up flavors the cat likes and mix them for her lunch Transfer to the original problem: Don’t complete large features before presenting them to the customer. Split the customer requirements in smaller pieces and gather their feedback one by one. Adjust your understanding based on the received feedback and only then process to their integration into bigger part of the software.

last edited by: Lenka Pincot on Oct 28, 2018 10:05 AM login/register to edit this page


"If a man does only what is required of him, he is a slave. If a man does more than is required of him, he is a free man."

- Chinese Proverb