I got the news in the modern way, Facebook. Sid Parnes had passed away. I felt a grey milestone pass through me, and I smiled. If there is one person I know who gave life his all, who did his best, it was Sid Parnes. He was 91 years old.
For my readers who don’t know who he was — Sidney Parnes, Phd is the co-inventor of what is known as the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving process. He helped start the CPSI Conference with Alex Osborn, and, was the co-founder of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State University. Sid wrote many books — including a very popular one Optimize the Magic of Your Mind, and was a prominent and prolific academic researcher into the subject of creativity. His research supports the idea that brainstorming done properly can be very effective — and it’s research many current writers on creativity would do well to review, now! There is much more to say about his accomplishments, but I’ll leave that to others.
Sid was magical. This was an inspirational man — more like Gandhi than Tony Robbins. A gentle soul with a compassionate heart and a smile at the end of every sentence he spoke. He was curious, he was kind, he asked gentle questions, and he talked to everyone. He never seemed in a hurry, he was never impolite — in my experience of him. Generous — CPS is “open source” he was more interested in helping others than making money. He was kind to endorse my business novel about CPS, Jack’s Notebook. Sid was a truly gentle man — who had a powerful impact. Creativity was his passion and he was absolutely masterful in his communication, if you listened to Sid you were engaged, you were learning.
And of course, part of what made Sid magical was what he created. He was the one who took Osborn’s great work and crafted a truly complete model of creative problem solving. Like many profound things it is simple, elegant, and powerful. CPS has been in active use now for about 60 years. It continues to positively impact the lives of all who learn and use it. It’s the foundational piece in many corporate innovation programs, and it informs coaches, facilitators, teachers, and leaders around the world.
I had the honour of interviewing Sid back in the 90′s, here’s the video. Note the kinaesthetic way he communicates a complex concept.
My most memorable piece of wisdom from Sid has to do with judgment. In my fourth year at CSPI he came and spoke to my cohort. He talked about the importance of deferral of judgment not as just a brainstorming guideline — but as a fundamental life behaviour. He said that in order to be open to ideas we had to defer judgment, as much as was possible, all the time. I’ve done my best to heed this advice in my own personal life and professional practice, and at times, the results of been magical.
Rest in Peace Sid. Your magic lives on in the thousands of people you’ve taught and mentored. Thank you.