What is a Meta-phor?

Don’t you love a good quote? This one was sent to me this week:

“ Collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It’s about the ideas that never existed until after everyone entered the room.”

Unfortunately I don’t have the source of this quote, as I would like to credit them with putting together some words that triggered me to think. I experienced all sorts of senses on reading these words. I see ramshackle buildings made of cardboard; I see smoke and mirrors; I hear dominant voices and missing voices. I feel a sense of relief when ‘everyone’ enters the room and jointly find some new ideas.

My reaction to this quote is unlimited. I am not being told what to think or feel or imagine. It is up to me. Such is the power of language that is metaphorical.

Gareth Morgan, Canadian organisational theorist and management consultant is a leading advocate of using metaphors to assist understanding of organisations. He regards metaphors as more than devices for embellishing discourse. Metaphors assist in challenging assumptions, to create profound insights and to help develop new ways of thinking.

‘Meta’ taken from the Greek means to go higher or beyond. When you have a diversity of people and experience working together on a common dilemma, it is crucial that folks are able to go beyond themselves.

I have observed on many occasions the power of a story to defuse tension in a fraught situation. The tension can be between people or inside an individual. When people are tense, they are limited in their abilities to collaborate. It is crucial therefore to interrupt this tension.

Stories can be the device to defuse tension and to enable travel from a limited understanding to a wider perspective. The purpose of a metaphor is to transfer meanings and understandings from one situation to another. Metaphors are powerful ways to communicate to someone’s unconscious.

Telling a story is a soft way to share perspectives. It is “just a story” right? People can hear messages that they may otherwise block if delivered in a less metaphorical and confronting way.

In previous blogs I have talked about increasing our collaborative fitness to best ensure success when we collaborate.

The fitness tip in this blog is to be generous with your stories and to listen well to others. In order for us to effectively participate in collaborative processes, we all need to go beyond ourselves. Telling and listening to stories is part of treading that path.

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