What are examples of analogies

LEAD Innovation Blog


You don't have to start from scratch every time you are looking for future-oriented innovations. There may already be solutions to your problem in analog industries and specialist areas. In this blog post, LEAD Innovation Innovation Manager Daniel Zapfl answers the essential questions on the subject of “Working with analogies” and gives numerous examples from practice.


What is meant by “working with analogies” in the context of innovation?

Basically, in a LEAD user project, in addition to our customers, we also involve analogue LEAD users in the innovation development. This means that we are looking for progressive users or users from problem-related or analogous fields who have already dealt very intensively with our customer's problem. The LEAD User Method therefore derives its effectiveness in particular from the use of analogies. For the respective task we are looking for innovative people, technologies, skills and potentials in analog areas and industries.

Let's take an automobile manufacturer as an example who wants to create an innovation for itself with a new brake technology. Depending on the desired level of abstraction, you are now looking for analog fields that also deal with braking and decelerating. The analog field or product should perform better than the product for which an innovation is to be created.

At a low level of abstraction, another vehicle industry is selected as the analog field, for example, and thus remains in the same industry. In this case, the next higher close analogy would be truck construction. You can also go into model making, since sports model vehicles also have to brake and decelerate. If you want to work at a significantly higher level of performance in the analogy, you can use Formula 1. Or you can go one step further in aircraft construction. The braking stress on an aircraft is much higher due to its weight. In addition, compared to a car, an airplane only has three entry points on the roadway and has a much higher speed when the braking process is initiated. For example, an airplane lands at a speed of 360 km / h, and a car may only have 1,800 kilos.

In order to research analog fields at a higher level of abstraction, one can take a look at other industries. If you let go of the button on a cordless drill, for example, the rotary movement of the drill brakes abruptly. You can completely free yourself from braking in a vehicle and then look for a drill with a higher speed than a car, for example.


Analogies should therefore - regardless of the level of abstraction - always be chosen in such a way that the analog market environment (advanced analogous field) is higher than your own problem.


How does the search process for analogies actually work in practice?

We are currently doing it so that we identify analogies and problem-related areas together with the customer in a milestone meeting at the end of phase 2 of the LEAD user project. We focus very strongly on the problem relationship.

In the run-up to this milestone workshop, all LEAD Innovation project managers are called together for an internal creative session in order to prepare analog fields and stimulating, challenging questions for the workshop based on the experience of past projects and our network.

In the milestone meeting, we then use these questions to develop corresponding analog fields together with the customer. In the case of one of our customers, whose goal was to manufacture an energy-efficient circuit breaker, we did not ask, for example, "Who still has to monitor electricity?", But rather "Who basically has to maintain a monitoring status". Then you can refine it and say “Who has a need to save energy in addition to the monitoring status?” And “What analogy is there or where is this problem relationship that something should be very vigilant, and in an emergency, cause an interruption Does it use little energy? ”So challenging questions that break up thought patterns and encourage people to leave their own business area are an important point in this process.

So in the example of the circuit breaker, the analogy of the pacemaker emerged. The pacemaker is built into the body and equipped with a battery that only needs to be replaced every few years. A pacemaker therefore has a very long service life and also offers 100 percent medical preventive care. The step to blood sugar measurement or other analogies in medical technology was then not far in the course of the brainstorming, as a new industry and perspective was opened up.

The exact definition of the search field and the determination of the relevant analog areas form the conclusion of the milestone meeting and at the same time the basis for phase 3: The search for suitable LEAD users, i.e. people, organizations or companies who have specific Have knowledge.

In a further step, we then make the appropriate contacts and invite the LEAD user to the LEAD conference in order to generate concrete solution concepts together with our customers.

In the example of the company that was looking for an energy-efficient circuit breaker, the decision was made on the analogy of the pacemaker. Together with the LEAD user, the company then took a close look at how a pacemaker monitors the heart rate and adopted solutions that were successfully integrated into the circuit breaker.


What are the advantages of working with analogies?

When we get in touch with a LEAD user who comes from the analog field and briefly outlines the problem, we very often hear the sentence "This is not a problem at all, we have already solved it."


Knowledge transfer from an analog industry

The customer's team often cooks in their own juice and cannot find a solution to the problem at hand, as there is a general tendency among development teams to prefer local knowledge when looking for a solution. However, LEAD users from analog industries have often already solved a very similar problem.

Sometimes a solution from another industry is recognized on its own, but it is usually the case that the big AHA experience comes in the milestone meetings when it comes to identifying analogies. Similarities between a car brake system and a cordless drill or a dentist's drill that can handle even higher revolutions are suddenly recognized. As a further consequence, the dentist's drill can make a massive contribution to the breakthrough innovation in the braking system.

For our customers who want to work with analogies within the framework of the LEAD user method, there is therefore the enormous advantage that they gain insight into a more advanced industry and can transfer proposed solutions from this analog industry into their own product. Knowledge transfer is one of the greatest advantages when working with analogies, as this "advanced analogous field" has already solved our customer's problem


No competition between customers and LEAD users

A positive side effect of working with analogies is the lack of a competitive situation in the context of the LEAD user conference. Because if an automobile manufacturer is working on an innovative braking system and brings in an engineer from Airbus or Boeing as a LEAD user, then there is no competition problem here. One doesn't want to build airplanes and the other doesn't want to build cars. The transfer of knowledge is very much easier and the exchange is extremely unproblematic.


Expansion of the customer network

After the project is completed, we often find out from our customers that their development team is still in regular contact with the LEAD user in order to coordinate and ensure that they are on the right track. Even after the conference, our customers have the advantage of a network expansion with a very valuable contact that would probably not have come about so easily under other framework conditions. The conference breaks down barriers and any mistrust between the participants very quickly, which also makes future collaboration much easier.


LEAD users benefit from the exchange

The advantage of working with analogies is on both sides, since it is also the motivation of the LEAD user to exchange ideas with participants from an analog, problem-related field and possibly bring a solution approach back to their own industry. For example, the exchange of knowledge between a textile company producing medical compression stockings and a LEAD user from the analogue branch of aircraft seat manufacturers can lead to very interesting insights for the seat manufacturer.


Saving R&D costs

The more research there is in an innovation, the riskier the projects are. By working with analogies, lengthy development processes can be shortened. This also reduces the risks and costs of innovation development.


For which areas of application is the analogy technique suitable?

Working with analogies works excellently not only with a product innovation, but also with a service and process innovation. An example of a process innovation is the transfer of the sintering process from an analog industry to the glass ceramic industry:

Due to temperature problems in the manufacturing process, a manufacturer of glass ceramics for dental use was looking for an innovation for the sintering process for the production of glass ceramic blocks that are ultimately processed into tooth crowns. Sintering is not only a field that is used in glass ceramics, but also in metals. For example, brakes and brake pads in cars or for racing are also sintered, but under different temperature ranges. Basically the process is the same, but by sintering different materials, the material properties are completely different. There was now a company that specialized in the sintering of tools that are sintered together with diamond tips. In the case of glass ceramics, temperatures of around 500 degrees Celsius are used, while diamond tips require 1,500 degrees Celsius (= advanced analogous field) so that they can be sintered. The analogy here was in the process, so process experts for glass ceramics and metal were brought together who were able to generate a solution for the glass ceramic manufacturer.

Another example would be the innovation of a logistics process. An analogy here could be, for example, how the freight container of a ship is logistically filled, since there is much less time available for loading and unloading a ship than for example for a stationary warehouse. You could break it down and ask “Who organizes in bionics, in other words in nature?” For example, an ant colony organizes itself logistically. One could therefore team up with a biologist who has in-depth knowledge of ant research.

Working with analogies also works when developing innovative services. For example, if you want to develop new software, but still have no idea what needs to be integrated and what benefits the software user should have, then you look for companies that have already integrated a very good solution in the company.

A manufacturer of garbage trucks is faced with the following challenge, for example: "What can the software look like for a dispatcher who plans 1,000 garbage trucks?" You could then look for a company that already has similar software in operation, such as Car2go. The company rents cars via an app and now has a fleet of more than 1,000 cars in Vienna alone. The garbage truck manufacturer can learn how Car2go organizes itself so that a vehicle or the tank is not permanently empty, or the service is carried out on time. An employee of the Car2Go software department could therefore very well contribute to the development of the software for the garbage truck dispatcher. You don't have to reinvent everything there either, you can bring ideas from the car sharing industry into your own company.


Conclusion: using the creative power of analogies

Use the potential of creative analogies for your innovation process. Bringing knowledge from other industries and specialist areas using systematic methods and creativity techniques, as well as involving LEAD users, creates new perspectives that not only generate original and innovative solutions, but also go easy on your budget and bring numerous other advantages.


Ad Personam:

Daniel Zapfl was born in Graz in 1982. After graduating from high school, he gained professional experience in the transport and logistics industry, first at DB Schenker, then at Dachser Logistics in the air and sea freight sector. Due to his personal interest in inventions and innovations, he completed a bachelor's and master's degree with a focus on innovation management. At LEAD Innovation he works as an innovation manager and project manager for project management.