Teaching Thinking through Analogous Associations

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Analogous: Comparable in certain respects.

The story goes that James Dyson – the founder of Dyson vacuums – hit upon his innovative vacuum design by observing how a grain processor got rid of the “dust” (answer: through a funnel / vortex).

One of the deficiencies in our society is that even when we bring the smartest people together to solve a problem – they are often the smartest people on the same topic. Thinking capability can be greatly expanded by looking to analogous fields. Possibilities abound when we contemplate “similar but different” perspectives.

When considering community planning – include sports managers, biologists, and airport general managers for their insights in to shared and coordinated spaces.

When tackling photography – include astronomers, glass blowers, and forensic scientists, who all understand how light and shapes are intertwined.

For newer, better ways to “crunch numbers” look to national security intelligence, proficient gamblers, and infographic artists who all see numbers as a representation of something else.

In our experience, expanding your thinking through including analogous fields suddenly makes you the “smartest person in the room.”