Use All Observation Aspects to Think in Metaphors

for organizations

This Domain-Level Guide is designed to be used based on the Core Model. Please refer to the Use All Observation Aspects to Think in Metaphors Core Practice before exploring this guide.


When working on a challenge or developing an opportunity in a professional context, ignoring the details, even if temporarily, is not a trivial task. But the details are often preventing you from seeing new creative ideas.

A metaphor forces you to see the subject differently, at least in some sense. At the same time, when the analogy is good, it makes the leap between domains easy and effective.

Playing with metaphors, using them for creating Fusions, and keeping them present and apparent throughout the thought process, can help you achieve creative breakthroughs as well as guide you in your path toward your goal.


Create Metaphors for What You Are Trying to Achieve

While the details will eventually be necessary, using a metaphor that masks some of them and create a different, often simplified, view of the challenge you have to address is an effective way to explore potential Fusions.

As you explore the challenge using various Observation Aspects, play with metaphors that seem to describe what you aim to achieve, even (and especially) if they force you to ignore some of the lower-level details of the problem.

  • Use different Observation Aspects to create metaphors from other domains.
  • Play with each metaphor. Consider what aspects it highlights and develop new insights in the context of your goal and how to achieve it.
  • Don’t aim to cover all the details of your challenge using the metaphor. A metaphor is, by definition, an abstraction or a simplification of a subject.
Fuse the Metaphors Before and While Going into Details

Metaphors are more than just the basis of a thought experiment. They act as portals to other domains, where unexpected ideas could be found. The analogy is the link between the realm of your challenge and another, allegedly unrelated domain. Through the metaphor, insights and ideas can travel back and forth, and among them, there just might be a breakthrough.

  • Bring back insights and ideas from the domain of each metaphor and try to Fuse them with your challenge.
  • Don’t let the details of your challenge stand in your way. There will be time to address them later. Enjoy the simplification of the metaphor and the ideas it triggers, and take them as far as you can.
Keep the Metaphor Alive

A good metaphor is helpful for more than just one-time ideation activity. When the metaphor makes sense, it can be your guide and ongoing inspiration in future challenges and dilemmas in the same context. Sometimes, the analogy can serve as a lighthouse, guiding your way toward your goal.

  • When you find a compelling metaphor, make it present. Find a way to embody it so it won’t fade away.
  • Keep revisiting the metaphor. Let it guide you, but also be open to refine it or change if it is no longer applicable.


Example 1

At the beginning of a brainstorming or ideation session, dedicate some time to capture a good and acceptable metaphor for the challenge. Keep the metaphor in front of everyone during the session, and use it as a source of ideas.

Solve the challenge in the domain of the metaphor instead of the original problem domain. Don’t dismiss ideas just because they don’t consider all the real-world details of your challenge.

Example 2

When developing a new product or service, embody a metaphor to align and inspire everyone on the vision.

In its early days, one of the known metaphors for the iPhone was the swiss-army knife, suggesting that it is much more than a phone and could be used to do many other tasks and activities besides making a phone call.

Such a metaphor is much more than a catchy marketing slogan. It can act as a lighthouse that guides design decisions and helps the team visualize the vision.

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