Abstract: Dependable Creativity: Synectics, Inc. and the Innovation Imperative, 1960-1980

Samuel Franklin


The decades after World War Two saw the arrival of a strange new figure on the business scene, the creativity consultant. With unconventional methods such as brainstorming and play-acting, these new experts promised their corporate clients a nevertheless orderly, dependable path to new ideas. This paper will look at the first such consultancy, Synectics, Inc., to argue that creative thinking methods arose out of the particular challenges of new product development for the expanding consumer marketplace. By putting engineers and marketing specialists in the same room and encouraging them to think more like one another, Synectics facilitators attempted to update corporate practices of innovation in response to deep structural changes in the global and national economy. In the case of Synectics we can see how the particular logics of consumer capitalism begat a whole new set of business practices, values, and professional identities hegemonic in our own time.