4.4.4 How to implement

Here one possible way of implementing analogical reasoning is presented and it takes about 40 minutes, but there are also other more detailed models that could take you longer periods of time (months). The procedure is recommended to take place in a quiet place (room), where people can relax and think. You can use a flipchart in order to take notes of your thoughts or even draw pictures.

Step 1. State your challenge.1
Identify what it is you want ideas for. "How to make X", "How to prevent Y", "How to speed up Z".2

Step 2. Choose a parallel or distant field.
The greater the distance the parallel world is from your challenge, the greater your chance of producing new ideas. A business analogy to a business challenge is too close- analogies from television or cookery more likely to stimulate creative thought.3 Biology is another fertile field for analogies.4

Possible objects of producing analogies:

  • System
    • Structure
      • Elements (form, colour, material, physical state)
      • Relation between such elements
    • Function
  • Environment of the system

Where to search for analogies?

Suitable analogies can be found in different fields of work or disciplines which seem to be “distant” from each other. Therefore, for the composition of a work group, experts from different fields are useful (technicians, doctors, biologists etc.).

Useful fields to look for analogies may be:

Nature: we all know about surprising solutions by using examples from nature (the durability of a spider net, the orientation of bats), which have been transferred and used for technical solutions. There is a whole scientific discipline dealing with this topic - BIONICS. There are lots of problems we are trying to solve which animals and plants have already solved. Other cultures, other technical disciplines, art, medicine, science, history are useful fields to search for analogies.
In looking for analogies from “distant” fields of work, solution concepts can be developed that are completely different from the original context of our problem. So they can lead to innovative solutions.


  • Clear definition of the problem
  • Available knowledge in different levels/expertise of different fields of knowledge (natural science, technical expertise, medicine…) – group work with experts from “distant” fields can be very useful
  • Capability to “see” similar structures/functions in a different field of knowledge
  • Abilities to transfer the similarities found to the problem situation which has to be solved
  • Knowledge about available sources of knowledge- databases, experts… - and abilities to use them5

Step 3. Generate a list of items (people, situations, objects, actions, places, etc.) that it is “like” it in some way6 or list the images that you associate with your chosen field, and then choose one or more particularly rich and interesting ones. This will allow you to describe the analogy in as much detail as possible.7

Step 4. Look for similarities and connections between the two components for your analogy. Don’t think of looking for connections as something arduous, or feel as though you were forcing yourself to swallow something unpleasant for your own good. Think easy. Let your thoughts come and go as they wish.8 Determine any insights or potential solutions that the analogy yields.9

Some tips for drawing successful analogies are:

  • After identifying your problem choose a parallel or distant field. When drawing an analogy select a much unrelated world or field to draw the analogy to. The greater the distance the parallel world is from your challenge, the greater your chance of producing new ideas.
  • Venturing into strange areas which seem totally unrelated to your challenge will increase your chances of seeing the challenge in a new context. The stranger the analogy, the greater your chance of generating a unique idea.
  • Relax and use your fantasy.

Now it’s your turn to apply this technique to your daily work and solve one possible business problem using an analogy. Let’s try it!

For example, your business problem is the following: You own a jewelry store and customers doubt about how jewelry would look with their wardrobes (colour of their clothes, etc.). So implement the technique of drawing analogies in order to advertise or present your products in order to remove your customers’ doubts.
Two possible fields to draw analogies from are given below, but you could try to find one on your own before looking at it. In order to get some help look at the annex (indicative list of fields).

Possible answers: Toy industry could be one field to use for drawing an analogy! The owner could use dolls wearing clothes combined with jewelry in the shop-window. Delivery of food could be another field. The owner could send the jewelry or an imitation of the jewelry to the customer’s home (jewelry delivery) in order to try it on with his clothes and return it in a few hours.

Did you find it easy? What was the problem, the analogy and the new idea produced?

1 Higgins, James M (1994) Creating Creativity
2 http://www.mycoted.com/Analogies
3 Michael Michalko (2006) Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques
4 Higgins, James M (1994) Creating Creativity
5 InnoSupport: Supporting Innovations in SME. 4.2 Brainstorming, 2005
6 http://www.mycoted.com/Analogies
7 Michael Michalko (2006) Thinkertoys: A handbook of creative-thinking techniques
8 lbid
9 Higgins, James M (1994) Creating Creativity