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Identifying Trends in Analogy Usage for Innovation: A Cross-Sectional Product Study

[+] Author Affiliations
Peter Ngo, Julie Linsey

Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Cameron J. Turner

Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Paper No. DETC2014-35164, pp. V007T07A002; 14 pages
  • ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 7: 2nd Biennial International Conference on Dynamics for Design; 26th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology
  • Buffalo, New York, USA, August 17–20, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4640-7
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


Design-by-analogy, including bio-inspired design, is a powerful tool for innovation and engineers need better tools to enhance ideation. To support tool creation, an exploratory cross-sectional empirical product study of 70 analogy-inspired products is conducted to report trends and associations among factors in the analogy-inspired design process, giving a general account of real-world practices. Products are randomly sampled from three technology magazines and a bioinspired design database. Seven variables are developed and used to classify each example according to design team composition, analogy mapping approach, analogies used, and design outcomes. Results suggest few differences between problem-driven approaches, which start from a design problem and find solutions in analogous domains, and solution-driven approaches, which begin with knowledge in an analog domain and find design problems to solve. For instance, results suggest that both approaches yield products at about the same frequency, and both yield products with improved performance at statistically-indistinguishable rates — thus, neither approach can be presently concluded to be advantageous over the other for improving product performance. Overall, few associations are detected between design outcome variables and other variables, thus precluding recommendations for how to compose design teams, what approaches to promote, and what number and source of analogies to support in order to achieve the outcomes measured in this study.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Topics: Innovation



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