The Science of Analogy

Analogy is defined as a comparison between one thing and another for the purpose explanation and clarification. The definition leads to the next question. Is analogy the same as example? The answer is no. Analogy is a comparison while example is a representation. Analogy is a good tool while you want to convey a message. At the same time, you have to choose the right analogies for the message.

Today, a colleague brought up a good example of analogy. My colleague was guiding on how to treat bad news. So the analogy he used is of wine and cheese. Being a foodie, I like when someone refers to food while explaining difficult concepts. According to my colleague (and other learned people), wine can kept for longer time. As time goes by, wine matures and becomes a pricier commodity. Unlike wine, cheese cannot be kept for longer time. As time passes, cheese becomes bad. Bad news has to be treated like cheese and not like wine. Bad news has to be communicated as soon as possible.

Sometimes, people get carried away and use the wrong analogies at time. I have come across a few but what stands out is the comparison to kamikaze units. Anyone who is familiar with World War II knows these units were used Japanese fighter pilots carrying suicide attacks. During the project kick-off, a colleague motivated the entire team by showing them the analogy of kamikaze units. The team had a long way to go and also had to make a huge impact. So, he chose the kamikaze units for motivating the team members. Unfortunately, there is no hope for the kamikaze pilot. First of all, why would anyone want to burn themselves out for a project? Secondly, why do we liken a project to war which always is destructive?

Tags: Musings,Analogy,Colleague,Project

Comments

  1. Right..analogy should be used logically and meaningfully...

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    1. Otherwise, it will confuse the audience.

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  2. True Nona.. The references we create for these analogies sure go a long way in making a difference - either motivating someone or demotivating someone terribly..

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    1. Analogies are always used to simplify things. In most of the cases, it is provide clarity via comparison and also for motivating people. When using the wrong analogies, the opposite may result. Instead of motivation, there is demotivation. The intention is always good. But good intention is not sufficient in the big scheme of things. :)

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  3. People are most creative in time of war. That's why it is good to make an analogy between project and war.

    If we analyse the kinds of technology and products developed through history, we will find that wars have triggered a good lot of them: hence 'creativity' of war.

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    1. I have never looked at it in this way. Thanks for sharing. I guess it is because there is added pressure for survival when it comes to war. The pressure drives the creativity. It is an interesting point.

      Military develops a lot of technology which eventually finds a way into public domain. This part is true.

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