This is like that

A battery stores energy. So do fat molecules, flywheels and springs. They belong to the storing-energy pattern. Air mattresses are deflatable foldable sleeping surfaces, comfortable enough in contingencies, such as during a visit by family or friends, or during a road trip.

AquaBells are fitness weights you can pack for exercise travel. You fill them with water to add the necessary weight. Both solutions have something in common. They are compact, flexible and light. They make uses of inexpensive material that’s readily available, and disposable.

In the 1980s Cannon had a major breakthrough when one of their engineers had an after-work eureka! moment staring at a beer can. Its geometry and shape inspired the design of an inexpensive disposable aluminum photocopier drum, to replace the one made of selenium. They were able to meet the price point for their target market of home offices and small enterprises.

The key to analogical problem solving is to find known problems that have the same structure as the problem being solved. ~ Arthur Markman

Supporting Innovation Through Analogical Reasoning, by Arthur Markman, Kristin Wood, Julie Linsey, Jeremy Murphy and Jeffrey Laux. Rotman on Design. 2013

Chef David Chang explains the secret behind the success of the Momufuku Pork Bun, with a set of “looks like, feels like” analogies between ingredients and flavor sensations. It’s a way thinking. Other chefs point out that seemingly incongruous ingredients, like chocolate and blue cheese, will taste great together as long as they have enough flavor compounds in common. This has lead to the development of an interactive map titled the The Flavor Connection, linking common flavor compounds, across the world’s favorite ingredients.

Some of the best ideas come from outside your domain. However, in order to find those ideas problems, and solutions in other domains, as Markman and others suggests, there needs to be a way to formulate problem descriptions that express the relational essence. It should be relatively easy and error-free to stereotype a particular problem, abstracting it from one domain, and then judiciously applying it to another problem in particular.