Jonne Ceserani, MD of Power & Grace

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Synectics and its origins


Forty years ago, two people in a design invention team, George Prince & Bill Gordon, became curious about why it was on some days they had productive ideas sessions and on others the group argued a lot and went round in circles.  They began to video tape the meetings and review the behaviour of the group.  They noticed recurring behaviours, some very useful and constructive, others very destructive.

The decision was made to try and change how they organised and behaved in meetings, doing more of the constructive things and finding new ways of managing the destructive behaviour.  They were successful and became more effective by their measures.  The two guys also began to wonder if they could make creativity and innovation more than just an 'accident'.

They set up a new company called Synectics.  The word was derived from the Greek syn - the bringing together of diverse elements and ectos - from outside.  A company was formed that has also given birth to a growing body of knowledge, because Synectics is also the name for the set of tools and techniques.  From continued observation of invention and design sessions, Synectics have developed a set of tools and structures.  These model and allow people to raise the probability of successfully using the processes of having ideas, being creative, making choices when looking for new ways of working, and developing new solutions from the kind of woolly stuff you get when people are speculating about possible futures.

These tools and processes are used in many major international firms across the globe.

The Synectics tools were in the capable hands of the consultants in both Synectics Inc, based in Cambridge, MA and Synectics Europe, based in London until 2003.

There were a number of licensees around the globe but the main body of consultants operated from these two offices.

In 2003 Altran, a French Technology consulting firm, purchased both firms and with them ownership of the Synectics name, although this name appears in Webster's Dictionary and is also used as a company name by a number of unrelated businesses around the world.  This marriage did not work to plan and around 2009/2010 a North American office reopened in Cambridge trading as Synecticsworld with a licence to operate on that side of the Atlantic.  Altran retain the name in Europe but do not trade with it.

In common with a number of ex Synectics consultants I integrate elements of my 12 years experience with the firm into my work, acknowledging appropriate origins when they are known.