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« Analogical thinking »


We use analogy when we say that something is somewhat like something else. For example: a jumbo jet is like an albatross in that they both fly, both have wings, can both travel for a long way without landing, and can both sense where they are going. They are unlike in that they have different means of propulsion, are made of different materials, are different sizes, etc..

Often analogies are used informally: 'This problem makes me think of... (the analogy) - and that suggests we can try X-idea drawn from the analogy.


The underlying logic to using analogy is as follows:

  1. Identify what kind of ideas that you want, and then try to find a core verb phrase that captures the functional nature of what you are looking for - e.g.: 'How to make X'. 'How to prevent Y', 'How to speed up Z'.
  2. For each verb phrase generate a list of items (people, situations, objects, processes, actions, places, etc.) that is 'like' it in some way .
  3. Pick one of these analogies - preferably where the verb phrase and analogy are from different domains (like a biological analogy for a mechanical problem).
  4. Describe the analogy, including active aspects (such as how it works, what it does, what effects it has, how it is used) as well as passive aspects (size, position, etc.).
  5. Use this description to suggest ideas relevant to the problem. Does the analogue have features you can use directly? Do the differences suggest other ways of looking at your problem?


Analogies can be:

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