4.4.5 Case Studies/ Examples

There are lots of examples of finding solutions from nature. Analogies found in other technical fields are quite common, too. In training for analogical reasoning, the question of how to transfer the lessons learned from historical examples often arises and we are often asked to illustrate how these examples apply.

1. Example:

Therefore, we have chosen one example from historical sources (see K. H. BUSCH).
The “Rat catcher of Hameln” is a story well known in Germany. People of the German town Hameln suffered millions of rats and mice. In 1284, as the story goes, a man wearing a strange looking vest appeared in the town and told the citizens that he would be able to free the town from the plague. The citizens promised him a good reward. He took out off his pocket a small pipe and started to play. All the rats and mice came out of the houses and followed him. He went right away into the nearby river; the animals followed him and drowned…

  • Attracting/driving away animals (rats, mice, moles, and midgets) by using acoustic means is very common nowadays.

For those who do not know the German story, we are going to tell it to the end.

The citizens were very happy but “forgot” to reward the man who had freed them from the plague. He went away very angrily but appeared again, early in the morning of the 26th June. He started to play his pipe again but this time, many children appeared to follow him. They went out of the town to a hill where they disappeared forever …1

2. Example:

A second example drawing analogy from medicine sector. A new nightclub having its grand opening and the owners wanted to send out clever and amusing invitations. They worked with the following analogy: “An invitation is like an aspirin.” In other words, they made the familiar strange. How can an invitation be like an aspirin? This analogy forced them to search for connections and similarities between two items. The search resulted in one of the year’s most unusual invitations.
The idea: Make the invitation pill-like. The club sent out a blue pill nestled in a black velvet ring box. Instructions on the box read “Drop into warm water, stir and let dissolve.” When immersed, the capsule dissolved and a piece of cellophane with the time, date and place floated to the top. The invitations cost $1.10 each and the opening was a smash.2

3. Example:

A third example drawing analogy from nature. At Atlas Copco Tec, a mining equipment company based in Golden, Colorado, a product development team used analogies to develop a machine that would both dig ore and load it onto a conveyor belt. One of the members was an entomologist. He suggested the praying mantis as an example. As it eats, it clutches food between its forelegs and thrusts it into its mouth. The result of that analogy was the ROC 302, a large tractor with shovels on each side (like forelegs) that load the ore onto a conveyor belt running through the middle of the machine.3


1 InnoSupport: Supporting Innovations in SME. 4.4 Analogical Reasoning, 2005
2 Higgins, James M, 1994, Creating Creativity
3 lbid