The Impact of Analogies on Creative Concept Generation: Lessons From an In Vivo Study in Engineering Design



Research on innovation often highlights analogies from sources outside the current problem domain as a major source of novel concepts; however, the mechanisms underlying this relationship are not well understood. We analyzed the temporal interplay between far analogy use and creative concept generation in a professional design team's brainstorming conversations, investigating the hypothesis that far analogies lead directly to very novel concepts via large steps in conceptual spaces (jumps). Surprisingly, we found that concepts were more similar to their preceding concepts after far analogy use compared to baseline situations (i.e., without far analogy use). Yet far analogies increased the team's concept generation rate compared to baseline conditions. Overall, these results challenge the view that far analogies primarily lead to novel concepts via jumps in conceptual spaces and suggest alternative pathways from far analogies to novel concepts (e.g., iterative, deep exploration within a functional space).