In your strategy sessions what is the main metaphor used?  Sports lingo?  Like, "how can we hit a home run?  Or military?  Like, we really need to capture that new market niche?

The latest in a very interesting series of posts on new truths of today’s economy (over on Tom Asacker’s blog) talks about the way we’re stuck using military or sports metaphors when discussing strategy…and makes the point that these metaphors are a "reflection of yesterday’s worn out thinking."

He goes on to say that metaphors must be chosen carefully because they "structure your thinking. They condition your sympathies. They direct your attention and influence your decisions and actions."  Now, think again about the metaphors that you’re using in your strategy sessions.  How often are you using military or sports metaphors to describe to your team what must be done?

I love this quote from James Autry, retired CEO of Meredith Corporation:

"Becoming a manager has much to do with learning the metaphors; becoming a good manager has much to do with using the metaphors; and becoming a leader has much to do with changing the metaphors."

This is a kernal of an idea that could shape a great series of discussions in your team meetings.  The question could revolve around the difference between sports/military metaphor and the notion that new customers, new market segments, must be pursuaded to come along.

It’s the difference really between a scientific, sort’ve "cause and effect" approach, and one that focuses more on the reality that our customers are complex.  That there is an art to reaching them.  That loving them will keep them coming back.

There’s another great quote in Asacker’s post.  I love this one from Albert Eintein.  When he was asked what single step was most important in enabling him to develop the theory of relativity he said: "Figuring out how to think about the problem."  That is a great insight, isn’t it?  Step one for all of us ought to be determining how to think about the problem that faces us.

Here’s the question: how will you think about the issue of reaching more people?   You can read Tom Asacker’s whole post here.

By the way, I found Asacker’s blog by taking a look at Tom Peters blogroll.  Hope you find it as interesting as I do!

Attract vs. Capture
  • I find my clients often suffer from what I call hardening of the metaphors.
    They use one metaphor over all others and it comes back to cause them problems.
    The metaphor: family.
    Good posting.