Re: Metaphor and Mental Models
Sun, 25 Dec 1994 12:45:48 CST

In addition to the "war" metaphor, predominant metaphors in business and
organizational discourse have been "journey," "game," "drama," and more
recently the "gardening" metaphor. The literature on organizational
learning itself seems to comprise both the "journey" and "gardening"
metaphors in great depth.

Here is why I am interested in metaphor and mental models- If you examine
literature on organizational studies, you will find several books on
new ways of organizing. Whether these studies are intended to help
organizations develop capacities within themselves to change on their own,
or are intended as "quick fix" strategies, organizations readily adopt these
philosophies as their own, much often to the point of being seen internally
as top management's new "flavor of the month" management style. My concern
is that potentially helpful ideas or new world views that could change the
lives of many people in the workforce are lost because of the "conflicting"
world views in operation of those trying to implement them within the
organization. My question is whether or not we can explain these conflicting
or competing worldviews in terms of metaphors, for example, discrepancy
between the metaphors associated with learning organizations literature and
the metaphors of those trying to introduce the concept into the day-to-day
behavior of the organization. (CASE IN POINT- A TQM metaphor is "journey"
with continuous improvement, but when one organization in particular that
I have worked within, the predominant metaphor "machine" drowned out the
"journey" metaphor).

A particular question that I am interested in is whether or not one could
explain unsuccessful intervention efforts in terms of discrepancy of metaphors.
I would like feedback from others concerning this idea, or perhaps the
experience of others to shed light or test this concept.

Thank you.

Craig Carroll
Priority Management
Abilene, TX