Dr. Javier Busquets of ESADE School Of Business in Spain has investigated metaphors as a source of knowledge.
Metaphors Represent Our Sense Of Reality.
Metaphors are expressions we use to represent and explain reality. They reflect our experience and they include both what we know and what we don’t know but may imagine. They play this role because we use them to include an entire representation, even though they are truly a combination of the known and the unknown.
For example, if we describe a leader as a lion, we are representing strength and power and aggressiveness without fear, and we also are expressing low levels of trust, since we don’t associate lions with trustworthiness.
The Wrong Metaphor Can Lead Us Astray.
The attribute of metaphors as representing complete things can lead us astray. Professor Busquets evokes Kepler and Newton, two seventeenth century scientists attempting to explain the workings of the universe and the motions of the planets. Kepler’s metaphor was a clock – a piece of machinery in which all the motions of the components are linked together. Newton’s metaphor was a balance of forces. Kepler was able to identify some useful findings, but Newton’s metaphor led him to greater, longer lasting and more significant findings.
Changing The Metaphor Changes The Game.
Professor Busquets offers us another example of changing metaphors revolutionizing actual practice, this time in sports. He cites the Spanish national soccer team that won the World Championship in 2010 and FC Barcelona, who were dominant in club soccer at the same time.
The metaphor for soccer, like many sports, had traditionally been war. Beat the enemy, attack, defend, win the fight, destroy the other team. The metaphor determined organization. There were attacking players, whose job was to score. There were midfield players, whose job was to pass to the scorers. And there were defenders whose job was to stop the enemy from scoring.
Make Jazz, Not War.
The Spanish team changed the metaphorical language from that of war to that of jazz. In jazz, everyone needs to understand the full game; certain individuals may take the lead from time to time during periods of improvisation, while all remain connected, and anyone can pass on the lead to any other at any time. In soccer, this metaphor translated into re-thinking the playing field, identifying “strategic areas for problem solving” (as opposed to the traditional attacking, defending and midfield zones). Each area is managed by a leader but anyone can take over at any time. Anyone can play any position, and anyone can try to score. Everyone is a connector; some players with special expertise are super-connectors.
In this new language, there is no “attack”, there is a possession phase, when the team has the ball. There is no “defense”, but there is a “recovery phase”, when the opponent has possession of the ball and the strategic problem to be solved is to recover possession. The objective is not to destroy the enemy, but to create new ways to succeed; not to win the fight but to learn and become the best, and enjoy the process.
New Metaphor, New Winners.
The team that mastered the new metaphor and pursued it to its logical conclusions became dominant. They were able to innovate continuously and at speed. While organizing themselves in new ways based on the new metaphor, they were able to create doubt and uncertainty in opponents’ organization. For example, the Spanish team might play with no “attackers”, since everyone is a connector who can pass to anyone and anyone can score. How does a traditionally organized team “defend” against one that does not “attack”?
When there is a need for innovation or new solutions to strategic problems, check your metaphor and see if a new one might lead to new insights and breakthroughs.
Super-Connecting Is The New Metaphor Of Entrepreneurship.
We spend a lot of time here at https://centerforindividualism.org on the subject of entrepreneurship. One of the metaphors of entrepreneurship is that of a future problem solver. In this metaphor, the entrepreneur identifies a consumer dissatisfaction that can be solved in the future with a new solution no-one has offered before. It takes time to assemble the resources to create the new solution but, ideally, there is relief in the future for both parties: the consumer solves their dissatisfaction and the entrepreneur resolves the uncertainty of the development and assembly period with a successful outcome.
There is, however, a different metaphor that is not so time constrained, and therefore less subject to the stresses of uncertainty. The entrepreneur today is an orchestrator, a super-connector of knowledge, technology, collaborators and capital. All of these inputs are available in real time as a result of today’s technologies. The entrepreneur decides how they can contribute, based on their individual relationship to the inputs of knowledge, technology, collaborators and capital, by answering the question, “What kind of a connector am I?” In this metaphor, the entrepreneur is no longer a solver of future problems, but a creative orchestrator of inputs in real time.
New Metaphor, New Pathways Of Entrepreneurship.
The adoption of this new metaphor can change entrepreneurship and accelerate the pace of innovation and economic growth. We can all be connectors, and some of us can be super-connectors. There are unlimited opportunities today to connect all over the globe via internet platforms, and to connect to massive amounts of specialized knowledge in the context of special individual interests, skills and preferences, and thereby to create a unique individual entrepreneurial business. It is the connecting that creates new knowledge and new solutions.
Let’s all start connecting! Let’s stop trying so hard in the metaphor of solving problems, and focus on the metaphor of connecting people, knowledge and technology, so that problems solve themselves.