Analogy helps with two things you need to do if you are to Upgrade your life namely:
1) Learn new skills
2) Solve new problems
Analogies are great for both.
First to the conclusion:
Analogies are really just like spreading manure on the garden….
1) Your brain is fertile ground for solving problems, just like you garden will grow what you need if you look after it.
2) It takes some effort to kick off, but the brain/garden does the real work.
3) The better the imagery, the more effective the analogy will be and the deeper it will go into your mind, just like digging in the manure.
4) Patience is sometimes required because both new thoughts and green shoots take time to grow.
And finally, analogies and fertilizer can actually and literally be crap and still be highly effective.
Learning/remembering through association quarters the effort.
If you use analogy when you are learning something new, then you will be able to pick-up the key points much faster by essentially not needing to learn all the parts that you already know. This will help you pickup the principals and also recognize the triggers for action faster and easier.
Analogy Example: I went on a blacksmithing day with my children recently and if you are going to form iron, it needs to have color(still be read hot). Having recently baked bread, the children knew that the dough needed enough water to be rolled properly and pointing out that the hammer is like the rolling pin and the red colour is like the water soon had them telling me when the iron should go back into the fire rather than have them pounding on cold iron with no effect.
Great for explaining things
I use analogies regularly when I am explaining something. Brain regions active at a particular time influence what we remember or forget so it only makes sense that having multiple parts of the brain involved when learning something new is an excellent way to explain something.
Minimize limitations by using multiple techniques and checking
Sometimes people won’t get your analogy. People learn in different ways, so this is normal. If you are explaining something to one person then you can easily check that they have understood and clarify if needed. If you are explaining, to a group then the analogy will need to be part of your toolkit hopefully addressing people who learn in different ways (EG Visually, through sound(auditory) and through doing it (practically).
“You never truly know something until you have explained it to someone else.”
Analogy adds meaning for everyone in a unique and individual way.
Some things like personal drive, anguish, fear or very complicated things (relative to your audience’s knowledge) like how the heart works (pump analogy) are difficult to explain or explain quickly. Associating analogous meaning can massively increase the impact you have on your audience. This added meaning is likely to be understood in a way or at a level that each individual can comprehend individually. So say you used an analogy of walking to the North pole an an analogy for something tough to do, some people will create images of harsh unforgiving landscapes (Visual), others will feel the biting cold (Kinesthetic), others will hear the wind (Auditory) and still others will image needing to encourage other people in the party (Social). Add meaning with Analogy for an audience.
Now go solve that problem …
Now it gets a little harder, so I am going to use the following simple definition of Analogy to help with terms.
An analogy is the comparison between two things (incl. ideas/journeys/relationships/etc.) where the Source is the better known thing and the Target is the lesser known thing (ie the thing you are going to teach or learn or the problem you are going to solve)
Analogies are also great for solving problems. I believe this is because of several factors including:
Analogies are generally about things which you can visualize or relate to.
The visual part of the brain is one of the largest and most active, so having this active during any problem solving exercise is a great advantage. Most people have highly developed visual parts of the brain, so this is an additional tailwind to solving problems with a part of your brain which is healthy and effective. If you are a non-visual person, then for the purposes of problem solving, you would be best off using an analogy which feels/sounds/smells right. This might meaning using a Source idea of an experience you have had or something that you heard or learnt.
Analogies are complete or whole.
The Source of the analogy (the better understood thing that you are comparing to your problem) is generally a physical item which is whole or a journey, perhaps a story with an ending or an experience that you have shared. This completeness is an important message to the brain that the Source is whole and is being compared to a problem (Target) which might be difficult at the moment, but can also be completed. Thinking about a something that you know is complete and can be achieved and transferring this feeling of possibility and capability to the problem you are trying to solve now is very powerful.
Analogies activate multiple parts of the brain
Why not have as many parts of the brain working for you at the same time on a particular problem. We know it works with Music/Binaural Beats and Analogies will also activate multiple parts of the brain to stimulate creativity. To increase this, you can probe the Analogy by asking questions such as:
- How do the Source and Target compare in visual looks, sound, taste, feel, etc?
- What other aspects of the Source have similarities with the Target?
- What makes the Source complete that the Target is missing?
- What are the core similarities?
So if you think about it, it’s not really about what you are comparing to what, more about the process that using analogy forces you go through.