Forced Analogy

Forced analogy is a very useful and fun-filled method of generating ideas. The idea is to compare the problem with something else that has little or nothing in common and gaining new insights as a result.

You can force a relationship between almost anything, and get new insights - companies and whales, management systems and telephone networks, or your relationship and a pencil.

Forcing relationships is one of the most powerful ways to develop ways to develop new insights and new solutions. A useful way of developing the relationships is to have a selection of objects or cards with pictures to help you generate ideas. Choose an object or card at random and see what relationships you can force.

Use mind-mapping or a matrix to record the attributes and then explore aspects of the problem at hand.

Corporation as a matchbox

Picture of a Matchbox

Robert Olson in his book The Art of Creative Thinking describes the problem of examining a corporate organisation structure by comparing it to a matchbox.

Matchbox AttributesCorporation
Striking surface on two sidesThe protection an organisation needs against strikes
Six SidesSix essential organisational divisions
Sliding centre sectionThe heart of the organisation should be slidable or flexible
Made of cardboardInexpensive method of structure - disposable

Marriage as a pencil

Picture of a Pencil

Betty Edwards in her book Drawing on the Artist Within shows the example of a pencil used to examine aspects of a marriage.

Gold RingRemember promises
Blue RingClean the tub. I share depression too often with family
YellowToo timid. Harold needs to know my true feelings
Flat sideDull daily routine. Change activities
Six sides6 things to do: Budget, Take a class, Improve discipline, be more assertive, start now!, improve communications
EraserRub him out! Forgive and forget past mistakes
MoneySpend too much. Need a budget. Take a job
SuperiorI feel inferior to my husband
Wood shaftFeel closed in. Need other interests. Am I getting shafted?
LeadGet the lead out! Do It! if I press any harder I will break.
WriteSend a note telling Harold that I love him.

Last updated: 18th October 1996

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