Thursday, 21 January 2010

Analogy! He's got an "ology" (almost)!

I find myself using analogy more and more these days. I like it for a number of reasons:-

  • It helps get the message across
  • I like humour
  • I like to approach the problem from different angles

Getting the message across
Sometimes the message is difficult. Not everyone is tuned-in to your way of thinking. Tor Norretranders wrote in the User Illusion that people need to go through a "synch'ing" process before "real" communication takes place. This is a bit like a protocol handshake to establish that both sides are ready to transmit and receive.

Analogy plays a part here. It helps find a common ground, history, context, experience or whatever you might want to call it.

Humour and off-the-wall ideas
I'm a divergent thinker. It's in my nature to look at problems from different angles. I work a lot with strategy decisions - sometimes that means taking a new/radical/different view about something or wanting to try something "new" out. One of these "problems" is communication. Getting people on-board and getting your message across and gaining acceptance for the message

Humour can be like an ice-breaker for new ideas, a door-opener. It allows the salesman to get his foot in the door and start a dialogue. Humour is not the subject or main attraction it's just the warm-up routine or the introduction.

There are pitfalls or traps associated with analogy. It should be clear what the subject/purpose is - that it isn't the analogy itself - "why is he talking about comfy chairs again?" There is a danger with being too divergent, too tangential, that you actually lose the audience....

This has happened in the past and will probably happen in the future. This is where perseverance comes in (and trying alternative approaches.) If you want to get your message across you have to work at it!
I sometimes joke that if someone isn't agreeing with me then I haven't discussed the topic with them enough.
Sounds arrogant?
Absolutely not - you find common ground - the discussion becomes a dialogue (from the  ancient Greek meaning where the group discovers insights that the individual cannot achieve) - and everyone learns together.

So, when I think about testing problems and concepts I use analogy a lot. I've used it in the past when thinking about testing myths, communication and I'll be using it (probably coupled with a bit of left-field humour) in the future.

I have plenty of humour candidates and problems/concepts that could do with a new look - so keep an eye out for the analogy-ometer ticking away!

So, when did you last look at something from a different angle?

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