As we focus on active processing this week, consider the power of analogy in the creative thinking process. That is exactly what George Prince and William J. J. Gordon, two pioneers of synectic thinking, did. Although their work centers mainly on structures to facilitate creativity and innovation during group meetings, much of it applies to the classroom and even personal problem solving.

Think about their three central principles of creative thinking, which were derived after watching countless hours of videotaped meetings:

1.Creative efficiency can be markedly increased if we understand the psychological process by which they operate ;

2. in creative process the emotional component is more important than the intellectual, the irrational more important than the rational ;

3. it is these emotional, irrational elements which can and must be understood in order to increase the probability of success in a problem-solving situation.

One powerful tool used in synectics is metaphor or analogy building. The goal is to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar in order to gain new insights into a problem or idea. As Gordon says, creativity can be maximized if we “Trust things that are alien, and alienate things that are trusted.” 

For young kids, this process may come naturally. Ask a 4-year-old to tell you how a dog is similar to a mailbox, or a tornado, or an oak tree. You’ll be surprised by the creative answers they come up with. And as thinkers get older, they can draw comparisons between disparate objects, ideas, or problems in a more abstract way.

Think about the theory of synectics and how it might be helpful to encourage new thinking in your next creative endeavor.

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