100 Managers' Toolbox: Analogies- Creative Problem Solving

Creative Problem Solving

100 Managers' Toolbox: Analogies- Creative Problem Solving

When to use

When looking for alternative, creative views on a situation or subject

What you get

A fresh look at the issue from a different perspective.


Half-an-hour to about 2 hours normally provide a useful output

Number of people

1-15 people, groups of more than five normally produce a better outcome


Somewhere to capture the development, a wipe board or flip chart.



1. Clearly define the issue that you are considering

2. Identify an analogy between the issue and another issue that everyone understands.

3. Discuss the issue that everyone understands

4. Compare the solutions/ideas and translate them back to the original issue

5. Build on the findings to create actions.



1. Problem: Product introduction need to be faster.

   Analogy: Product introduction is like breaking the four-minute mile.


Relating the ideas back to the original problem





Consider your vision of the future of your business using the analogy of ‘Transportation’.

Key points

  • Using pictures also adds to the creativity of the ideas generated.
  • It is important that people get into the spirit of things – ensure the people involved are prepared to trust the process.
  • Don’t try and shoehorn reality into an analogy. If it doesn’t work, use more than one to capture all of the aspect, e.g. use the four-minute mile and the moon landing.

Additional comments

If people are not into the spirit of things, it will be difficult to get value out of the exercise.

Other information

There are many books on creative thinking, some useful ones are:

E. DeBono, Serious Creativity, HarperCollins, 1994; R. Von Oech, Creative Whack Pack,

US Games Inc. 1989; M. Michalko, Cracking Creativity, 10 Speed Press, 1998; B.

Mattimore, 99% Inspiration: Tips, Tales and Techniques for Liberating your Business

Creativity, AMACOM, 1993