Metaphors are both stages and cages for our thinking.
“Our business is a smoothly oiled machine.”
“Life is a box of chocolates.”
“We call the boss Darth Vader”
“Kai has the heart of a lion.”
We think by comparing one thing to another (analogy) or mapping one thing onto another (metaphor).
They’re stages — platforms that boost our ideas — because they create:
- deep understanding and illumination — suddenly you can see a whole pattern!
- emotional engagement and power
Metaphor powers our language.
And they’re cages — once you ‘lock in’ to a metaphor, it limits and directs your thinking. If your business is a smoothly oiled machine, and something goes wrong, you will look for different solutions than you would for a happy and productive farm…
We never escape this pattern (how many metaphors have I used in my writing in this short update?) — but we can notice it and we can think about the limits and extensions which our metaphors offer us.
Having at least two different metaphors about the same situation is a power move.
If you’d like to have a play around with these ideas, the SCiO metaphor special starts tonight at 7pm UK time on zoom: https://scio.org.uk/events/scio-uk-metaphor-special-virtual-development-event-april-2021 It’s members only — but annual membership which gets you a lot of events and the entire published back catalogue is only £30 :-)
What’s your favourite metaphor?
What does it emphasise and what does it take you away from?