Thursday, November 5, 2015

Learning Through Analogy

We have a remarkable ability to learn quickly through direct experience, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. We seem to be hardwired to understand that the results we experience from an event will be be similar the next time we see the same event. By itself, this learning method would be greatly limited by the fact that no two events are exactly the same.

We are also endowed with the power of analogy. Analogy gives us the capability to recognize when situations are similar and extend the conclusions we make from our direct experience to other experiences which appear similar.

Our ability to learn through analogy grows as our experience grows and we have a greater knowledge base to mine for similarities. One of the best ways to stimulate creativity is to actively cultivate analogical thinking.

Here are some questions that can develop analogical problem solving:

  • How does this situation resemble anything I have experienced before
  • What worked and didn't work then?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Who else has experienced a similar situation?
  • How did they handle it?
  • How did that turn out?
  • What if they had done something differently?
  • Is this part of a long term trend?
  • When in history have similar patterns occurred?
  • Who were the winners and losers that time?
  • Is this part of a cyclical pattern?
  • How does the rest of the cycle typically play out?

Like most creative skills, the ability to see useful analogies is strengthened by a rich pool of knowledge and a strong sense of history.

You might also like:
Learning by Observation
Following the Rails to Promontory Point
Creatives of a Feather Flock Together