SHORTCUT: A Book About Connections

 

Analogies surround the world we live in. Whether they find themselves shaping our inventions, technology or even speeches. Analogies help shape the way we think. They create roadmaps in our brains that help understand foreign concepts. They help persuade using emotions and they use stories to help understand abstractions. Without analogies, we would have a hard time understanding concepts which are new to us.  John Pollack the author says “people with an understanding of analogies have a better chance of becoming more creative, more persuasive and are more likely to achieve their goals”. This book makes you realize how much of our everyday language does consist of analogies. We find it in our ads, apps, political debates, legal arguments, logos and every day conversations. Shortcut has five main idea which are that analogies fuels thought, shapes outcomes, sparks innovation and persuades.

 

Analogies are so powerful because they structure our thoughts. They can shape the way people think about a situation. If it is used at the right time and place it can potentially give the exact outcome you want. Analogies leverage on experiences people already have, making them feel familiar and therefore convincing. Many politicians use analogies to get their points or ideas across. For example, the “revolving door policy” which was put in place by Dukakis. The campaign capitalized on famous cases where a convicted felon was let out of prison and shortly after committed another crime bringing him back to where he started. The commercial ad was just as you would think, prisoners walking in and out of a revolving door. With the simple analogy of the revolving door the audience could understand the point the politician was trying to make, but in a more powerful way. Ultimately this was voted one of the ads which left the biggest impression in that year’s election.

 

Analogies also spark innovation. A quote in the book says “innovators are those who spot useful analogies before others do and figure out how to put them to work” (pg. 107). Even in an article form 1905 titled “modern profession of invention” points out three important qualities for an inventor and they are 1) be persistent 2) cultivate your imagination 3) look for analogies. Charles Darwin the founder of the idea behind “survival of the fittest” came upon his realizations through analogy. Darwin recognized a potential analogy between geological and biological processes the specifically that of the impact of small gradual changes over extremely long periods. The book quotes that “he reasoned that if a modest meandering stream could, by eroding grains of sand one by one, eventually crave a mighty canyon, perhaps small random changes in a plant or animal cold influence their relative reproduction and survival rates over successive generations, and thus gradually alter both form and function to yield new species” (pg. 74).

 

Lastly analogies can persuade. Reasoning by analogies is used a lot in the legal system. Jurist look at past situations to form precedent over a present case. They make persuasive arguments via analogy and they don’t have much choice in this it is how we form understandings. MLK was well known for his use of analogies, especially in his “I have a dream speech” his analogies between biblical suffering and American struggle was what made his speech so powerful. Without the use of the comparisons, the speech wouldn’t have moved the country like it did.

 

The most persuasive people link conceptual “dots” in a way that their audience can grasp new connections and form deeper meaning which resonate as true, even if they aren’t. (pg. 161). This book takes you through not only the creation of analogies but also their use in innovation, persuasion and forming connections. He also offers 5 steps to creating a successful analogy which are: use something that is familiar to explain something that is less familiar, highlight similarities and obscure differences, identify abstractions, tell a coherent story and resonate emotionally. analogies offer conceptual and emotional shortcuts and offer us a new way to solve problems. Analogies create discovery and help communicate ideas in a new fresh way. Pollack couldn’t have ended his book with a better quote “the perfect analogy makes things as simple as possible, but no simpler.

 

-Isabella Martinez

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