TUFTE ON VALIDATING HORIZONTAL THINKING
Though he himself did not put it that way. Here is a short post from Edward Tufte
on "Metaphors, Analogies and Thought Map
pings" where he makes a critical observation, followed by some comments from me:"Roald Hoffmann has a fine essay in the recent American Scientist on metaphors, which he describes at one point as "thought mappings." Hoffmann suggests that metaphors may be at times useful for (1) explaining technical results to a general audience and (2) achieving and understanding technical results.
In my work, the thought mapping "data graphics should operate at the same resolution as typography" (more generally: data graphics ~ words) was most helpful in creating and justifying sparklines. This mapping provided direct advice about the design of data graphics, and it also had a sustained quality since it carried through to ideas that sparklines could appear wherever words (and numbers) appear and that paragraphs of sparklines should be constructed. There is certainly something of an after-the-fact quality to some of this, and the mapping (data graphic ~ word) has its rhetorical as well as technical value in writing about sparklines.
Of course loose or strained metaphors notoriously produce loose thinking. "When a precise narrowly focused technical idea becomes metaphor and sprawls globally, its credibility must be earned afresh locally by means of specific evidence demonstrating the relevance and explanatory power of the idea in its new application. It is not enough for presenters to make ever-bolder puns, as meaning drifts into duplicity. Something has to be explained." (Beautiful Evidence, p. 151). "[Emphasis mine]Tufte ignores the powerfully generative aspect of metaphors and analogies that inspired Hoffman, in favor of concentrating on their communicative utility. However Tufte brings focus to a frequently ignored point that the use of metaphors, parallels ana analogies across domains needs to be tested and validated. Vertical thinking field experts add value to the horizontal thinking process when you are speculating across domains. It may be that your insight from Art History will open up new vistas in molecular biology but if so, then your first stop should be with a molecular biologist.Not every metaphor needs to achieve universal consilience to be " true". Often concepts will be valid within a body of cognate fields and a few unrelated domains that have some parallel dynamics or methodological tools ( such as modelling complex adaptive systems, for example). That's a significant contribution in itself. Very few phenomena will ever have fundamental, proven, application to all fields of knowledge.