Creative Leadership: George Prince

June 25, 2009
George Prince

George Prince

George Prince was a mentor, friend and role model. It was some small satisfaction that we corresponded again after a gap of many years, a few months before he died on June 9th 2009

After too long a gap, we had reconnected by email in late 2008. He sent me a remarkable message in reply to mine enquiring how he was. He reported his declining health in typically upbeat style.

The exchange of emails took me back to the time he spent in England in the 1960s, as part of his work promoting creativity. George had attracted the attention of The Unilever organization and it was my good fortune to have learned from him how creativity in project teams could be stimulated by appropriate structures.

Early work

His website summarises his early work

George M. Prince is of Synectics©, Inc., the company that initiated research into the creative process and then became the leading teacher of inventors for business and industry. As long time Chairman of Synectics, he and his partners originated the idea of videotaping invention groups to learn how the process of invention occurred. Based on their discoveries, they developed courses in creativity and innovation that have been taught all over the world. In 1970, Prince published one of the early books about the process: The Practice of Creativity, Harper and Row, 1970. It became a best-selling trade book.

It would be misleading of me to leave the account without making mention of his erstwhile colleague, Bill Gordon with whom he conducted pioneering work in the Arthur D. Little engineering consultancy. As often happens, the two young pioneers went their different ways. Bill, always the more academically-inclined, turned to creativity within educational contexts; George, the former advertising executive, founded a successful and innovative management consultancy.

We were later to meet in various locations, including a conference on whole brain creativity at Key West, where he shared celebrity status with Paul Torrance. The Practice of Creativity was to me rather more than a trade book as described on his own web-site.

His influence

His ideas had influenced my writings, and have been gratefully acknowledged in a range of publications across several decades.
More importantly, he opened my mind to an approach to facilitating team creativity which he would demonstrate in training workshops. His own style was that of a remarkably inviting and unthreatening friend. The experiences contributed to notions of trust-based leadership which I associated with the work of Monty Roberts. (More recently, and in hindsight, I would add Sid Parnes as another exemplar of the style).

The approach to facilitation of group work has been an influence on me ever since my first and most impactful experiences of it four decades ago.

George Prince, like Monty Roberts and Sid Parnes, taught by example and invitation. His legacy, as of many charismatic leaders, resides not so much in what he wrote, but what impact his actions have had on others.


To Vincent Nolan former chairman Synectics Europe who passed on the news and the obituary to George Price in The Boston Globe.

Sid Parnes: Creativity thought leader for over seven decades

June 25, 2009

by Tudor Rickards

Sid and Bea Parnes

Sid and Bea Parnes

Sid Parnes epitomises a thought leader. Throughout his long and productive working life he has inspired countless people through his work on creative problem-solving

Sid was honoured in celebrations at Buffalo [May 8-9th 2009] by members of a global community of creativity practitioners and researchers which he did much to found and nurture. In January 2012 he was further honoured on his 90th birthday.

A personal reflection

I first met Sid in the 1970s. Buffalo was already attracting educationalists and business people to CIPSI, (The Creative Problem-Solving Institute]. It took me a while to figure out the complex relationships between its week-long conference, the Creative Education Foundation, and what became later known as the International Institute for Creativity at the State University of New York, (SUNY) Buffalo. I probably haven’t got the full story, but what is clear is that Sid Parnes had a hand in the developments of all three.

On my first visit he was already recognized as the benign figure behind the Summer conference. His reputation had been established for his pioneering work with Alex Osborn on brainstorming. Together, they had developed Osborn’s original concepts into the Parnes Osborn approach, a well-codified system at the heart of the CIPSI events.

Business practice and body painting

At the time, CIPSI also offered an enormous number of presentations and workshops of all kinds. You could find keynotes given by distinguished scholars such as Mo Stein, Don MacKinnon, Paul Torrance, and J. P. Guilford. had attended earlier meetings. There were many electives on creativity in education, humanities and business practice. You could try body painting, meditation, dance, and various religious experiences including table-top performances from a celebrated dancing priest.

Each of the five days provided training and practice in one stage of the five stages of the Parnes-Osborn problem-solving model. Day one would be objective finding, day two fact finding day three problem-finding (‘in what ways might we…’), day four ideas finding, day five acceptance finding. If it seems a bit rigid a structure today, and it was to become far more flexible as alternative delivery modes were tested and modified over several decades.

Sid and his Pantograph

One fond memory I retain is that of Sid moving briskly from one part of the campus to another, clutching a bundle of papers and a pantograph (to illustrate his beloved principle of divergent and convergent processses in creative problem-solving. His progress was interrupted for greeting his many friends and students. But he somehow still managed to get to his destination on time. [The Pantograph image is from Office Point Five Star ]

Sid and Bea

For that, as for many other things, his progress was almost certainly aided by the equally indefatigable Bea. Together, they represent all that is life-affirming about creativity and service leadership. Over time, Susan and I got to know Sid and Bea well, and cherish their knack of making everyone want to spend quality time with them.

Creative Problem-Solving

Somewhere, I have an annotated set of pre-publication notes that Sid sent me. They later were turned into The Source Book for Creative Problem Solving: A Fifty Year Digest of Proven Innovation Processes, one of his classic publications.

Thought leader

Sid, you epitomise not just thought leadership, but thought into action leadership. You have transformed the lives and actions of countless people through your work and your life. It is the greatest pleasure to affirm this as part of the celebrations on the occasion of your eighty seventh birthday.

A Community tribute

A community tribute from the 2009 event can be found on the Tribute to Sid website .