The 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.