Analogs Framework assumes that present situations always have one or more analog situations in the past. An interesting starting point to bring in historical discussions in scenario building.
Does that mean that radically new situations must be dealt with without referring to the past experience? In their book, “Thinking in time”, Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May think not. They argue that there is always an analog, ie a past situation decision makers can refer to, but on the conditions that the similarities and differences with the present situation be clearly understood.
There is a long history of the use and abuse of historical analogs, comparisons of different incidents in history to presumably learn from the past. Analogs do offer useful perspectives that may be applied to current challenges, of course, but there are also many instances of poorly understood analysis based on analogy.
Frank Gavin observed that policy people want actionable information, certainty, and simple explanations. Meanwhile historians revel in nuance, distrust simple explanations and also distrust power and those who seek it. Thus historians keep themselves irrelevant, and policy makers keep their process ignorant. Gavin proposed five key concepts from history that can inform understanding and improve policy dramatically…
- Vertical History. What are the deep causative patterns behind a current situation?
- Horizontal History. The interconnecting events of a particular moment—all the things simultaneously on the plate of a decision maker—profoundly affect decisions
- Chronological Proportionality. Dramatic events take our attention away from what's really going on.
- Unintended Consequences: things turn out differently than we expect.
- Policy Insignificance. What policy people do is often not the main event at all.
Historians, he said, can bring a well supported, authoritative, helpful message to the public discourse and to policy makers at such times: “Don't freak out.”