Analogies + Metaphors = Creative Thinking

Posted in: Creativity | (Français) le24 September 2011

Analogies and metaphors are not only beautiful, they are vital to the creative thinking process.


Before explaining how analogical and metaphoric thinking stimulate creativity, we have to understand what analogies and metaphors are.



An analogy is a comparison between two things that are alike in some way. Consider an analogy between the heart and a pump. To better explain how the heart works, we refer to a pump ‒ they both function in the same way.


Another analogy would be between the solar system and the atomic structure. In a solar system, planets orbit around the sun while in an atom, electrons rotate around a central nucleus. Though an atom is microscopic and the solar system is gigantic, both share the same rotational patterns.


An analogy is like a distant logic. There is a common element which is not always obvious. At first sight there seems to be no similarity, however when you look closer and analyze further, there are common elements. I found that the more distant and unlikely the two objects of comparison, the more beautiful the analogy. The simple reason is that you have to stretch your imagination far and wide to connect the two subjects of comparison.



A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses one thing to mean another. Consider the following metaphor: “Love is a fragile flower opening to the warmth of spring.” In this metaphor, the opening of a flower is used to describe love. We all know that love is not a flower, but rather an emotional feeling. However, we can picture this feeling of love unfolding to the warmth of a lover like a flower opens to the warmth of spring.


It’s fun to read beautiful metaphors and analogies and it’s even more fun to think metaphorically and analogically. Both metaphoric and analogical thinking involve comparing two different things that have something in common. Our mind compares the unfamiliar with the familiar or the unknown with the known. In this thinking process, the brain scans anything that passes through for similarities and try to make associations.


Creative Thinking

Scientists have found that it’s the right brain that is involved in analogical and metaphoric thinking. Your thoughts have to leave your logical left brain and flow through your creative right brain to make analogical associations. It’s like stretching your imagination from left to right.


Sometimes an analogy or a metaphor will immediately produce an image in your mind. To think metaphorically and analogically, you have to think in pictures rather than in words. You have to leave behind left-brain words and logical analysis to capture meaning through pictures and emotions in the right brain.


Analogical and metaphoric thinking are creative thinking processes. Analogical and metaphoric thinking train your brain to think creatively by thinking outside the box, by looking for solutions beyond established boundaries, by making associations with new elements to come up with novel solutions, and by making connections with things that at first sight seem to have nothing in common.


Artists and poets are always thinking analogically and metaphorically to produce creative works of art. Many discoveries and inventions came into being while the inventor was consciously or subconsciously thinking analogically. This creative state of mind can be used in the business environment to create, innovate and find new solutions to existing problems.


Analogical and metaphoric thinking nurture a creative state of mind. I have come across ideas, innovations and inventions through analogical and metaphoric thinking. The more I force myself to think analogically and metaphorically, the more automatic it becomes. Eventually, the brain automatically processes thoughts through this creative state of mind in your subconscious without you even thinking about it.

Add a comment

  • Wednesday says:

    Informative articles like this are rare.

  • Charleigh says:

    Listen to this fantastic TED talk on analogies and metaphors:

  • Jacques De Vries says:

    J’ai beaucoup appris. Whao!

  • Aaron Black says:

    This is a great blog you have here