Are You a Synthesizer or an Editor?

March 10th, 2015 || No Comments
Part 1 of 3


What’s a fundamental difference between these individuals: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates?  Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo? Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff?Picture1

When we think of industry pioneers and creative geniuses, we typically focus on their impact on everyday life, or their ingenuity for their era.

Now think of them in a different way. How do their talents contribute to a complete creation-to-delivery process? What aspect of their quintessential being differentiated them from millions of others in their fields?

Let me share my theory.


Successful creation and delivery of anything new is inherently complex and varied.  However, I’ve discovered an undeniable reality:

Creation consists of two fundamentally different, and equally essential, activities:

  1. Synthesis
  2. Editing

Synthesis + Editing = Realized Innovation

Regardless of the subject matter, industry, medium or scale, these two conceptually different, yet critical, phases are part of the creation-to-delivery process. In addition, the phase ordering is also fixed. So what brought me to this indisputable realization? Pattern recognition.

After many years of observing and participating in creative processes spanning an array of physical and logical technologies, as well as business model developments, and even aesthetic endeavors, this two-phase pattern has become evident in every single case – a simple truth so elegant and rational that at first it may seem trivial.

Let’s clarify both of these terms so we can then put the knowledge to proper use and relate it to today’s technology.


Synthesis is the act of internally theorizing, and then communicating to others, something genuinely “new.”

Popular American colloquialisms seeking to express the seed of all synthesis include the familiar “light bulb over the inventor’s head,” “flash of insight,” “moment of clarity,” etc. Synthesis is genesis, the very seed of anything new; it is by definition a potential, not yet achieving a kinetic state.

Without synthesis, only the prior exists. With synthesis, a new potential “creation” may be brought into existence. However, without editing—the other part of this equation—synthesis delivers nothing but concept.


The less obscure but still necessary phase of editing is modifying, purifying, transmuting from a synthesized “thought experiment” to a real world of action, collaboration, implementation and delivery.

Momentum sends the promises of a synthesized idea into the kinetic state of editing. Effective editing releases the figure from the stone of a sculptor, or the Michelangelo to da Vinci’s mental rumination of things yet to be.

Helicopters and Radios

Consider da Vinci’s synthesis of vertical flight, as communicated in his sketches of what we now consider the world’s first helicopter. Yet his synthesis remained simply a concept until 20th century engineering ultimately edited this into the first successful flying helicopters.

Another, more recent, example begins with an unknown inventor, Philo Farnsworth, who arguably synthesized the key technologies required to produce the first functional real-time image transmission apparatus (what we now call television). Through editing, David Sarnoff realized Farnsworth’s concepts, which eventually launched an empire called Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and an industry that transformed the world.

Does synthesis always precede editing?


There is no “chicken or the egg” conundrum here; regardless of the time distance between them, synthesis triggers editing. But it is very hard for one to succeed without the other.

Check out the next post in this series, which looks at the necessary connection between these two activities and how you can combine them to strengthen your creation process and build your team. Which one are you… a synthesizer or an editor?

Read part 2 in the series here.




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