At OpenIDEO we thought it might help to start documenting some of the different ways that we can think about solving problems and provide some of the tips and methodologies we’ve learned across IDEO.

Particularly relevant to our latest challenge with Amnesty International is the way in which we can learn from analogous situations. Sometimes when thinking about a problem we can focus so hard on it that we get paralysed by it. Stepping away from that context and looking to other situations can help to relieve that feeling. But where to look? The trick is to look for areas which are similar and to look deeply at how they work and then to ask the question ‘what can we learn from this?’ For example when redesigning how a large corporate HR department should relocate employees in a more human centric way, we interviewed a wedding planner. Why was that relevant you might ask? Well there’s multiple stakeholders’ interests to balance, it’s a time based, long drawn out process that involves multiple locations and suppliers, and it’s a highly emotional journey where expectations often have to be managed carefully.

Try it yourself: try listing out all the activities that take place in a given context, or the emotions involved in the situation. A good analogy will involve as many of these things as possible.

Try it out with the latest challenge from Amnesty International where we’re asking how we can support people who are detained illegally with technology. We’re using out missions feature to prompt this analogous question:

What digital tools open up conversations in order to spread awareness, connect people together or support people in times of need?


Can you think of an event in your life where you’ve felt out of touch or powerless? If so, how did you feel? What helped you? What could have made the situation more manageable? While not everyone can relate to the experience of unlawful detention, personal stories can be a powerful way to create empathy for these extreme situations. Tell us a story of when you were in an analogous situation of being unsure in your surroundings, lost or out of touch.

Here’s one of my inspirations for this challenge to give you a flavour of how it works.