Think in Metaphors and Abstractions



If the devil is in the details, the silver bullet might just be hiding in abstractions. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by details to the extent that they hide creative opportunities.

When you Think in Metaphors and Abstractions, you mask some, if not most, of the details. Abstractions blur the details and enable you to see the grander scheme. Metaphors often highlight a specific aspect of the subject you think about. Both Abstractions and Metaphors promote unexpected Fusions because they launch you into an entirely different playground with new elements to explore and Fuse.

Thinking in Metaphors and Abstractions is often a creative challenge by itself. Experiment with different Metaphors and Abstractions and don’t settle for one.

actionable steps

Use Metaphors and Abstractions to temporarily mask some details and highlight certain aspects of the challenge or opportunity you are engaged with. Do the same for ingredients and insight you collect.

Use the abstraction and metaphorical layers to find surprising connections and Fusions. Play with them and develop them before you bring the details back into the picture.

Try to apply different Abstractions and Metaphors. Each of them will provide a new view with an additional Fusion potential.

When you add back the details, try to maintain both the simplified view and the Fusion, even if the details seem to invalidate them. Use this opportunity to challenge the details and their applicability. Be open to the possibility that the definition or the scope of the challenge would be changed accordingly.


Example 1

When considering a new feature for a product, a metaphor can create surprising Fusions. Consider, for example, a keyboard. Metaphorically you can say, “a keyboard is like a piano.” Masking all the apparent differences might create an unexpected Fusion such as a tunable keyboard with keys you can adjust to the specific way you type (in terms of pressure, unintentional keystrokes, etc.).

further exploration

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