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Exploring ideas




60 minutes

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  • Paper or electronic file

  • Pen and markers of different colours

  • Sticky notes

What is this tool and what is its purpose and benefit?


Analogies find inspiration for ideas by drawing parallels and comparing two things. A precise service, for example, could be described as a clock, or a beautiful voice could be described like the voice of an angel. Analogies are embedded in culture, symbols, language and ideas from nature. Analogies explain and give meaning to things, evoke familiarity and emotions, and are, therefore, a rich source of ideas, which can also be easily understood by customers.

Steps how to use this tool in practice

The same steps apply when working individually, in pairs or in a group.


Take the identified problem as your starting point and identify its main aspects for which to find analogies, for instance, receiving customers.


Make each of the aspects sector neutral and start thinking about analogies for them. For example, managing audience flow in a concert hall or an open-air concert. They key work here may be the flow, flow of living things and people


Start looking for analogies for each aspect by asking ‘what is also like this?’ from:

  • Nature. In the audience case, how does nature manage flows? How does blood flow in veins?

  • In another sector, and similar services or products. In the audience case, how are (customer) flows are managed in other sectors?

  • Any other source. For example, in the audience case, how is information flow managed?


Write these analogies down and start looking at details. Highlight similarities, differences, and what you can learn from them.


Start generating and listing ideas based on your findings and spotted examples keeping in mind the problem to solve. Do analogies shed any light on how you can solve the problem? What could be transferred to your problem? How?


When you have enough ideas, take them to the next phase for evaluation.

Tips and hints for using this tool

  • Sometimes exploring differences can be more valuable than similarities.

  • Enable contributions from all and do not evaluate too soon.

  • Analogies can also be used for thinking what can represent the organisation or company itself or the level of hard skills or the professional.

Other tools of this phase

An active and exploratory way to generate ideas


An inspiration board for ideating solutions

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A group ideation tool


A fictional description of a typical customer.


Creating ideas together with customers and stakeholders.

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An ideation matrix of service aspects.

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The must, should, could and won’t haves of a service.


Soliciting the expertise of the crowd.


A visual map of existing solutions to the identified problem.

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A visual idea generation diagram.

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Generating ideas quietly and getting inspired by others.

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