Metaphor and Strategy in Digital Britain

metaphorsThe use of metaphor in strategy and business and in the media is widespread and often annoying.  Narrative is used to illustrate choices and “It’s been a long journey” is regularly heard from both reality TV participants and news media people who ought to know better.  But there are many more forms of narrative than the journey story – and richer archetypes we could think about.

But maybe we could recast or re-interpret some of these metaphors to help see problems in a ‘new light’.  There, you see; I’m doing it now.  What if we could ‘think our way off the Pendulum’ of boom and bust?  How about ‘painting ourselves Out of the Box’?  And how about making the ‘Playing Field’ more mountainous for players with too much market power?  What if we could harness our knowledge of systems dynamics so that things spiral into control.

And then we come to the Patchwork Quilt analogy I came up with as one of the scenarios for Digital Britain.  The industry seems to want to interpret the Patchwork Quilt as a ‘bad thing’.  Actually it’s a good thing because it’s a manifestation of the coming wave of localism.  Design your own patch of Digital Britain to respond to local conditions and make sure, though, at the edges it joins up with the other patches.

So, the next time you hear a metaphor being used to describe strategy or choices; generate the anti-metaphor in your mind and see where it takes you.

One thought on “Metaphor and Strategy in Digital Britain”

  1. yup, we do seem to have a habit of presupposing the pejorative intent of any particular metaphor – like your spiraling example, and as a result they tie us down.

    I like your anti-metaphor idea (a metaphor in itself!), and it fits with one of the ideas I use when teaching music – I often have students who want to get ‘beyond patterns’, as though there’s a level of understanding of music that’s beyond order and structure, rather than just one where the patterns are ingrained to a degree that you have a ‘headroom of ideas’ – where the range of patterns with which you are familiar, that you can recall mentally and physically, is sufficient to present you with a surfeit of creative material, and a greater-than-neccesary emotional range to the options you can draw on.

    Metaphors are great when they are at the service of broad-scope, progressive, often crazy thinking – the playful, story element can allow us bat ideas around, and allow misunderstandings of each other’s metaphors to illuminate rather than obfuscate, the way that misunderstanding each other’s ‘facts’ would.

    Metaphor, story and play are surprisingly robust as idea-generating, paradigm-exploring models, so long as the response to feeling constrained by patterns is to ‘learn more patterns’ πŸ™‚

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