Case Studies: Synectics – Conductor of Change

A major UK-based council was battling with a significant change programme – lots happening all over the place, with an abundance of conflicting priorities.

Problem Owner: Change Manager

Key Definition of Creativity:

Generation of ideas which are both novel and useful

Problem as Defined

How can we clearly define realistic priorities in order to manage change?

Problem Exploration Technique

Boundary Examination

Problem As Understood

In what way might I guarantee that every single member of staff reacts positively, absolutely owns, instantaneously, every single change in the Council priorities?

Note: the redefinition massively raises the bar, above the mental blockages, demanding breakthrough thinking if we are to find a real solution

Idea Generation


Now, Synectics is a technique which is based in provocation – stimulating the brain by distracting it away from the well-worn traditional thinking patterns, focusing on novelty in the first instance. A random stimulus is used to generate this provocation – in this variation of the technique simply using a random physical object, tabled by the facilitator and completely unexpected by anyone else (thereby assuring a lack of preparation in advance – which would otherwise inevitably steer the team into “more of the same”. Presented with this object, the team initially explore its characteristics or attributes, initially in isolation from the issue at hand (i.e. the Problem as Understood).

Then, this exploration process is used as the starting point for solving the Problem as Understood, seeking something within the image that makes one look differently at how to address the issue. Then follow the thought …. trying to find the germ of an idea, something that the problem owner had never thought of before (i.e. novel), but that they can see how it might work (i.e. useful).

Provocation – Orchestra

Characteristics: conductor, organised, practiced, highly skilled – individuals, groups – leads, entertainment, grand venue, audience, performance, feel the music, sensory, ice cream, perfection, smartly dressed

Novel and Useful

Converge – novel and useful: Need an overall Conductor for total change – currently lots of local conductors, all doing their own thing. Needs to resonate with everyone – aligning behaviour with a “rhythm”. Can’t hear the rhythm – too much noise. Needs a constant bass-line to keep everyone together, with different music over the top – bass rhythm keeps everyone aligned with any changes. Needs lots of practice – practicing changing priorities??

Having acknowledge that there is no single conductor for the overall change programme, the first task is simple; identify the very best (capable) person to “conduct” the overall programme. They need to determine the “score”, give to each of the “sections”, then put their own interpretation on the “performance”. The orchestra produces a truly World Class performance; but without a conductor??

Note that a conductor is not essential for a smaller “band” – where individuals can work off each other. It is the larger ensemble (larger SMEs, corporates) that sure MUST have this in place!