When trying to develop a creative breakthrough, analogous inspiration can be incredibly productive. I have written about this type of fuel for the creative process many times, including in a recent blog post about hospitals and Formula One race teams. I also describe analogous inspiration in the Unlocking Creativity book, with an example about the Reebok Pump sneakers.
One question you may have is: How do I come up with the perfect analogy? How do I find great experiences or situations outside my industry from which I can draw inspiration? New research suggests that crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence can help. NYU's Stern School of Business recently posted a description of this research conducted by Professor Hila Lifshitz-Assaf, assistant professor of information, operations and management sciences, and her colleagues at other universities around the globe. Here's a brief description:
Wilbur Wright, for instance, famously got his idea for using wing warping to steer an airplane while twisting a cardboard box. Using similar methods to solve disparate problems is a common theme in the history of innovation. But as problems become more complex and the amount of scientific information explodes, finding helpful analogies can be difficult, said Niki Kittur, a professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute.
As described in a new report to be published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers are addressing this problem by breaking down the process of identifying analogies, using crowd workers to solve individual steps in the process and training AIs to do part of the work automatically.
“We’re developing new tools that could unlock a whole set of interesting possibilities,” said Kittur, the lead author. “We’re just beginning to see how people might use them.”