A metaphor effects through the mental links that the addressees add, especially if the images are coherently from one subject area, the so-called metaphor field. The most effective topic areas can be determined with the targeted audience through conversations, evaluations of publications, and the consideration of previous statements. The mental worlds found provide clues to real, emotional, and strategic interests. Many images are available through the thoughtful choice of subject areas to increase the impact on the targeted groups.
The following overview offers possible topic areas and some food for thought on the use of metaphor fields.
Societal Society is composed of various groups and actors that form communities spatially, economically, and culturally. You find the analogies in multiple roles (e.g., gender, socialization, relationship, professional, and cultural), social forms (e.g., family, horde, tribe, village, clan, and nation), the comparable phases (e.g., development, growth, consolidation, and decay), and other characteristics. In enterprises, social groups evolve in the biz functions or on hierarchical levels or across them based on subject areas and other commonalities (e.g., gender, age, and education). Social metaphors promote team building – e.g., the company as a family; the company’s entrepreneur; life’s not easy at the bottom.
The art of building provides commonalities along the life cycle of artifacts – designing, creating, constructing, and building buildings, cities, and landscapes. The results range from sketches, models, and shells to facades, interiors, facilities, plumbing, and networks. Different building shapes additionally stimulate the imagination: e.g., the tower; the bridge, the pillars; the palace, the castle, the country house. Architectural metaphors follow everyday experiences: e.g., all show and no substance; co-operations require bridgeheads; ideas stand on shaky pillars.
Physical Bodies are the material building blocks and functions of living things and artifacts: mammals with their limbs and organs, e.g., the heart, the brain, and the gut; things with their components, e.g., commodities or artistic objects, and the activities associated with them, such as chopping, storing. Popular images of people are, for example, he lacks backbone; putting their heart into their efforts; the gut decision. Things like the bucket, the sieve, the knife, etc., provide mental links through their functionality – e.g., the nervous system for IT networking, arm length for the scope, the dull knife for lack of effectiveness.
Technical The constructed, man-made world of tools, machines, and computers represents a mechanistic worldview. In recent decades, technology has been the guiding metaphor for organizations: division of labor, the interaction of the parts of the organization, and the targeted performance improvements. Typical analogies are input and output; the gear train; the tanker with its huge turning radius; the speedboats with their agility; the interfaces between different systems; networking; the catalyst as an impetus for change. The human being becomes the small cog of the organization; the helicopter provides the overview; the three-legged stool stands for TAR of a role (i.e., task, authority, and responsibility).
Economic With its value-creating processes and responsible parties, the economy consists of meaningful images: money, investment, economy types, markets, suppliers, buyers, and intermediaries. In the enterprise, as in the economy, supply and demand as well as the Invisible Hand apply with all the associated mechanisms, e.g., in pricing or self-regulation for a fair distribution of services. The development becomes insightful through general values: e.g., the winner gets it all stands for the win-lose; everyone is in the same boat for the dependence on each other; the tide lifts all boats equally for the uniform effects of economic fluctuations.
In all disciplines, science provides insights and regularities for our understanding of the world. Scientific theories include explanatory models, experiments, and values. To get as close to the truth as possible, science strives for objectivity, clarity, comprehensibility, and openness. Metaphors can be derived from this: e.g., the laboratory as a safe testing field; the research project for fruitless investigations; the bee colony for groups; the selfish gene as an image for the self-life of information (memes).
Ecological Our natural environment with its phenomena offers analogies for the increasingly organic themes. It starts with the different spheres of sea, land, air, or space. Natural catastrophes such as tsunamis, avalanches, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, meteorite impacts, black holes, etc., occur there. The vastness of the sea or the infinite expanse of space can be applied to biz situations. Besides, natural processes provide meaningful images – the caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly; the organic growth of cells; the cycle of becoming and passing.
The art of war is a particular form of occupation with corresponding analogies for biz: organizational forms, equipment, and machinery, and approaches to action. The structure of military formations derives from their preferred locations: naval, land, and air forces (and now in space), as well as from the chain of command, communication, and escalation ways: roles (e.g., general and soldier; adversary and allies), procedures (e.g., reconnaissance, situation briefing; strategy). The approaches to action provide strategic, tactical, and operational perspectives (e.g., situation plan; scenarios; troop movements). Typical metaphors include victories or defeats; the decisive battle; war as a continuation of politics by other means; the fight to the bitter end; the battle is lost, but not the war.
Bottom line: Metaphors transfer properties and characteristics from a subject area into a biz topic. Due to the analogies and scope of an association, the target group members enrich the issue. To develop this imagery coherently, the subject areas of the metaphors should be chosen carefully. Approaches arise on the one hand from the worlds of the target groups’ experience. On the other hand, the metaphor fields should be rich in images so that different aspects can be used. In this way, a comprehensive imagery language is created over time, which enriches the biz task. For example, a technical target group has a particular penchant for technical metaphors: e.g., the moon landings with almost half a million contributors, the difficulties to be solved (Houston – we have a problem), or the required vision or mission. The smart choice of the metaphor field and the stringent reuse encourage the common striving towards the goal. We do not forget a good metaphor.
Distance is a term that feels more like the distance between Earth and Sagittarius A (26,5000 light years) than the distance between Beijing and Duisburg. Via communication networks we are connected to every point on earth in almost real time. Since 1970, the number of passengers on global flights has increased more than tenfold to over 4 million per year. Today, people commute an hour to work on short-haul flights or by ICE or local transport. In other words, we are far-reaching connected across borders that once felt as inaccessible as the moon today. In such a world, political borders seem anachronistic. Viruses spread around the globe in a short period of time across frontiers. Neither vigorous slogans nor border closures prevent the common fate. And when one wave is over, another one comes. Because after is before.
A look at possible risks should blow the horn of dystopia and make us feel insecure, but rather remind us that in the future we will have to deal with such effects differently, as we can no longer afford further shutdowns.
Global risks are rarely expected in nature and are considered to be locally manageable – in principle. The current virus crisis shows us that these critical situations do not respect borders or are limited to certain cultures. The present responses from experts and politicians are focused on short-term goals. Decisions are not based on possible collateral damage, nor do they consider their long-term effects – above all not the human lives that will be harmed additionally due to the measures.
And what happens if next one of the mega volcanoes erupts and the global climate topples in a very short time? Or if a tsunami floods one of the world’s economic centers and the economy collapses in the aftermath? And anyone, who believes that we can protect ourselves against all eventualities should first of all be aware of the required efforts.
Political risks One of the effects of natural disasters will be political dangers. The societal systems will become unstable due to the dissatisfaction of the population. When panic already breaks out due to toilet paper the question arises, what we do, when things get really serious, when there is nothing left to eat and drink because the logistics channels that have been put in place no longer work and local suppliers can no longer compete with other countries. In an economy of scarcity, the black market emerges first and foremost, in which only the wealthy can afford the prices. In an effort to maintain control, the state will also use the current technical possibilities that we already know from China. And the political forces that want the revolution will feel strengthened by the shift to a surveillance state, which will lead to more and more terrorist attacks from left and right. However, the same applies as always: Be aware what you wish for. Over the past ten years, politicians and the electorate have prepared the ground for what is coming.
Technological risks A very sharp sword of Damocles is our information and communication infrastructure. No one has yet found the one switch to stop the worldwide web. However, there is an increasing number of malwares that attack all levels of IT. In addition, natural disasters could have corresponding effects – e.g. a solar storm or meteorite impact. The consequences of a collapse are unimaginable. Emergency generators do not help in these cases. There is nothing today that does not depend on the Internet: Waterworks, energy grids, hospitals, mobility, logistics of any kind, production of goods and food, communications, or the public authorities. A collapse of the Internet will take us back to Middle Ages. Without this nervous system, all cars, trains, pumps, elevators and so on will come to a standstill within a very short period of time. There is no way to communicate anymore – except for the runners, who walk from one place to another.
Economic risks In contrast to the above risks, the economic are easier to cope with – except for those who benefit from a flourishing economy – bankers, economic officials, investors. In the regions that have nothing to gain from the current economy not much will change the precarious existence in Africa, South America and large parts of Asia. Their supply is even more secure than in the world’s agglomerations, which can no longer be supplied. In the remaining regions, the price increases will lead to a change in consumer behavior. Currency fluctuations can be compensated by national or regional consumption. The cutbacks will regulate driving behavior and energy consumption. There are many examples from the past for dealing with shopping lines and empty shelves. Work, working hours, management styles and anybody else who wants to get rid of the bureaucratic ballast today will become naturally agile. In the end, the economy is part of the problem rather than its systemic solution – austerity measures in all areas of life, outsourcing to places with the cheapest labor and, in the absence of short-term profits, the de-economization of entire regions.
Bottom line: A virus is currently rampant, which threatens the elderly in particular. In the interest of their lives, the economy is being stopped by politicians. Everyone is looking at the stock indices and is now looking forward to rising share prices again, as if this were of benefit for employees and the self-employed. Nobody reports the damages, even to human lives, that are created by the shutdowns. The functioning part of the health care system is not the result of foresighted policy, but only possible through personal commitment and some difficult decisions of many, truly systemically important service providers in the hospitals and in everyday supply. The aftershock prepared by this control madness is unimaginable. And what has not yet been addressed at all is the question of what comes next. What do we learn from the current crisis management?
Solving a single problem without considering unwanted side effects threatens all. A holistic assessment of the situation is mandatory.
Federalist societies have reacted clumsily. Closing the borders of Germany or Europe oversees the fact that certain crises cannot be stopped by this. Not to mention European cohesion, which I hope will not be destroyed with this nationalism.
Politicians refer to experts in order to decide. Shouldn’t a task force of experts temporarily be given overall control?
The population obviously needs a strong hand to rule with prohibitions and closures, otherwise the individuals will continue unteachable as before. It remains to be seen how these extended powers will be brought back to normality.
In any case, a crisis leads to bad consequences and needs an evaluation and prioritization of all damages. The media and politicians should put their business model back for the moment and not creating even more insecurity in the population.
Not every country can afford the luxury of closing the shop. And we won’t be able to afford it again any time soon either. Hence: after is before.