Re: Metaphor and Mental Models

Stephen Robbins (
Mon, 19 Dec 1994 00:22:06 EST5EDT

> Second, the more conscious we are of our "root metaphors" as
> graphic images of our mental models, the more able we are to change
> inappropriate, obsolete, dysfunctional, or simply ineffective
> "mental models." Metaphor has more power over us when we are
> totally unaware of its presence, than when we ARE aware of its
> presence, regardless of how accurate the metaphor is that we hold
> as operative.

There are a lot of fascinating underlying metaphors used in business
which subtley direct thinking.

One obvious one is that business is war. We talk about "strategy"
and "tactics." We talk about "capturing" market share, "strategic
alliances," "beating" our "competitor," etc.

Yet war has several outcomes: destruction of the "enemy," absorption
of the "enemy," or peace and mutual interdependence following
diplomatic intervention. It's clear that the war metaphor is used to
justify all kinds of aggressive actions, but the metaphor is quite
incomplete. If you look closely at the war metaphor, you'll also
notice that for the overall growth of the species, it's probably only
outcome #3 (the one that DOESN'T exist in business) that's desirable.

The work of Dr. Milton Erickson, who was possibly the world's
greatest therapeutic hypnotist, used metaphor heavily and felt
that it had the potential to produce profound behavior changes.
[Unfortunately, I don't have any specific book references handy.]

- Stever

Stever Robbins
Accept no substitutes! PGP key available upon request
"You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."