Analogy technique as a tool for creative problem solving

Analogy technique

1. Authors: W. Gordon (1961), E. de Bono (1970).

2. History

W. Gordon began to use analogy as an effective method for creative problem solving in his Synectics. In the book “Synectics: the development of creative capacity” (1961), four types of analogies were proposed: direct, symbolic, personal and fantastic. As an independent one, the Analogy technique by Edward de Bono in his book “Lateral Thinking” (1970).

3. Description

The analogy technique is based on identifying typical features of the main problem, finding objects, situations or places which also have these features; and using them as mental stimuli to solve the main problem. In the broad sense, the method is the application of useful knowledge, technology, or facts from one field to another.
To use an analogy technique is to make an implied comparison between two things, processes or fields that are essentially dissimilar but are shown through the analogy to have some similarity.

4. Main functions

1. Analogy may be an important strategy and heuristic for dealing with the uncertainty that occurs in problem solving.
2. The analogy technique is one of the most universal and at the same time simple heuristic techniques for searching for new ideas and original solutions to creative problems. Analogies are used to force us to look at a situation in a fresh way and generate further ideas.
3. The method serves as an effective way of enhancing creative thinking and imagination, a technique for eliminating psychological inertia, overcoming mental barriers and stereotypes.

5. Methodological and theoretical grounds

At its most basic, an analogy is a comparison of two objects, processes, situations, or actions to show their similarities. This is the specific comparison of two things that are essentially dissimilar but are shown through the analogy to have some similarity.
At large, an analogy is an abstract parallel between two quite different objects, processes or relationships. Besides an analogy implies likeness or parallelism in relations rather than in appearance or qualities.
Analogical cognition is the centre of all mental tools, embraces all cognitive processes and manifests itself as analogical reasoning and figure of speech. Analogical reasoning is fundamental to human thought and a comparison between things that have similar features, often used for the purpose of explanation or clarification.
Analogy helps us to link an unfamiliar or a new idea with common and familiar objects.
Analogical thinking is what we do when we use information from one domain, to help solve a problem in another domain.
Creative problem solving. Experts often use analogies during the process of problem solving, and analogies have been involved in numerous scientific discoveries.
At once analogies are widely recognized as playing an important heuristic role, as aids to discovery. They play a significant role in problem solving, as well as creativity, invention, prediction.
The analogy is an effective technique and tool to help in creative problem solving. Thus, analogies were central to the earlier forms of Synectics, which were based on the use of a direct, personal, symbolic and fantastic analogy. For example, the technique of direct analogy or analogy from nature is based on the idea that every problem, however big or small, has already been solved in some way by nature. In addition, the personal analogy involves envisioning yourself as the product or the problem and role-playing.
Making analogies to some other field can help to look at things differently, clarify a problem and get creative ideas.
Therefore, it is essential to look for analogies between elements that have apparently nothing to do with one another by asking questions like:
“What else is like this object, process or problem?”,
“What works effectively in similar fields” and then copy what works.
Answers to these questions can lead to the transfer of a potential solution to the real problem.

6.  Fundamental principles

1. The principle of the Unity of the World.
The Principle of Universal Connection. Everything is connected with everything else.
3. The principle of similarity, isomorphism and universality of the laws and structures
of reality.

7. Steps

1. Define the problem. Identify the root cause of the problem.
2. Generate analogies. Think of an analogy between your problem and something else. Try to think of an unrelated object: thing, process, event, and field. Choose an analogy from nature in its widest sense. Select an action you can compare your situation to. Examples: Going on holiday, Driving a car, Cooking a meal… Use the root cause to generate a list of analogies.
3. Find similarities. Establish an analogy based between the subject and objects of analogy. Describe the analogies, their positive features, how it works, how it is used. Use your imagination and have some fun with it. Elaborate on the analogy by listing details such as functions or uses. Make a list of useful properties of the various objects-analogy.
4. Select any of the analogies that look interesting, preferably, where the objects are from different domains. List short descriptions or details about the chosen analogy.
5. Use description and similarities to generate ideas. Use this description to suggest ideas relevant to your problem. What features we can use directly? Ask yourself what insights or potential solutions the analogy suggests. Generate new interesting ideas and brainstorm creative solutions.


Forced Analogy or forced relationships

The forced analogy is a very useful method of generating ideas. Forcing relationships is one of the most powerful ways to develop new insights and new solutions.
1. Define the problem.
2. Choose an object at random and see what relationships you can force. A useful way of developing the relationships is to have a selection of objects with pictures to help you generate ideas.
3. Compare the problem with something else that has little or nothing in common and gain new insights as a result.
4. Force a relationship between almost anything, and get new insights.

9. Advantages

1. The universality and effectiveness of the method, its accessibility, simplicity and ease of implementation.
2. An effective way to overcome the inertia of thinking, a tool for enhancing imagination and creativity.

10. Disadvantages

The success of the method directly depends on the degree of erudition and imagination of the participants.
The analogy technique is closely connected with the methods of associations, bisociations, and metaphors.