In the pursuit of solving problems and generating new ideas, our brain can benefit from unconventional approaches and connections. A creativity technique for this is the use of analogies.
Analogies act as mental thought-orientations, enabling us to reframe our perceptions through the lens of unexpected connections between familiar concepts.
The concept of analogy is simple but incredibly effective: borrowing solutions from unrelated fields and transferring them to our own problems or ideas.
Understand analogies as a creative tool
Analogies serve as a versatile tool in various fields, from marketing strategies and business development to restructuring and employee motivation. The essence lies in stepping outside the boundaries and exploring alternative perspectives.
How does it work?
- Choose a analogy: Start by choosing a preferably well-known thing of the same type that you want ideas about. If you want to develop your company, then choose a well-known company such as Volvo or Coca-Cola.
If you want to develop a product, choose another product such as the iPhone or a food processor.
If you want to develop a service, choose a well-known service such as a taxi ride or a hairdresser.
What you choose should be well known but preferably have nothing to do with what you develop yourself.
- Ask questions that provoke thinking: Challenge the conventional by asking: “If, instead of what we are doing right now, we worked with / manufactured / sold / marketed / engineered what Volvo does, how would we approach our question?”.
“If our product was handled / sold / recycled the same way as the iPhone, how would it have to be different?”.
“If our service was handled like a taxi ride, what new ideas does it bring?” etc.
- Explore different analogies: Extend the analogy technique by likening your organization or your problem to more far-fetched analogies such as animals, cities, tools, or something chosen at random.
- Identify Distinctive Characteristics: Immerse yourself in the characteristics of your chosen one. For example, if you compare to an animal, what defining characteristics does it have?
- Apply the insights: Ask yourself, “What aspects of these qualities can we apply to our challenge?”
- Marketing perspective: “If we were Coca-Cola, how would we market ourselves?”
- Tool analogy (more far-fetched): “If our company was a wrench, what characteristics would we have?”
Broaden the scope
Expand your comparisons beyond companies and things. Consider geographic locations, animals, car brands, sports, TV shows and more.
The wider range of comparisons, the wider range of innovative insights.
What is a good analogy?
Choose well-known things and companies with a rich brand profile or that you know a lot about. We have a richer picture of these, which makes it easier to get more associations and thus more ideas.
Strengthen the parallels by looking for specific attributes or characteristics, don’t just use the obvious first analogy. If your first association with Volvo is safety, think about what else is typical of Volvo.
The only criterion is that it does not directly remind you of your challenge or problem. If you work at Volvo, then don’t choose BMW, but instead use IKEA or Walmart as an analogy.
The creative potential of analogies lies in their ability to dismantle mental barriers and promote a new view of problems and challenges.
By choosing different things and drawing parallels between seemingly unrelated things, this method offers a creative path to innovation. The process is not about copying solutions, but rather about harnessing inspiration from unconventional sources to spark original ideas and new approaches.
The next time you’re grappling with a challenge, consider stepping into someone else’s shoes through the lens of a analogy. You might unlock the innovative solution you’ve been looking for all along.