November 11, 2008
Metaphors Be With You!

If you want to originate breakthrough business solutions, you will need to think differently than you usually do. In a phrase, you will need to "get out of the box."

But how? How does a person go beyond the boundaries of their own mind? Is there a key? A door? A nearby genie just waiting to be invoked? How, precisely, does a person think something they've never thought of before?

Perhaps the simplest and most powerful way is to awaken the image-making part of your brain. To imagine. (Ever wonder why the word "image" is the root of the word "imagination?")

Poets and writers are masters at awakening the imagination. A simple turn of phrase, a simple metaphor, and a reader's mind is opened to a whole new world of perception, understanding and experience.

But not only poets and writers have this knack. Scientists do, too.

Friedrich Kekule, the noted German chemist, at a loss for words, described his breakthrough understanding of the benzene molecule as "a snake biting its own tail." And Einstein's Theory of Relativity was preceded by one of his famous "thought experiments" in which he imagined himself riding a light beam into outer space while holding a mirror in front of his face.

No wonder Einstein said, "I rarely think in words at all." No wonder Aristotle, centuries before, concluded, "It is impossible to even think without a mental image."

Unfortunately, business people do it all the time. Addicted to the logical, linear, analytical and rational, we have traded in our artistry for craftsmanship...our palette of possibilities for an increasingly thinning bottom line.

The resulting state of our imagination? Downsized, outsourced, and otherwise re-engineered into oblivion. But it doesn't have to be that way. Not by a long shot. A simple turn of phrase can re-ignite it. And the most effective turn of phrase is the metaphor (and its kissing cousins, analogy and simile).

Simply put, a metaphor is the application of a word or phrase to an object or concept it does not literally denote (i.e., "The ghetto was a volcano about to erupt.") A metaphor calls attention to a similarity between two seemingly dissimilar things and, by so doing, establishes the kind of creative tension that has the potential to spark quantum leaps in thinking -- the kind of leaping that generates insight and discovery.

In fact, a well-placed metaphor is a lot like a... chemical reaction... or a meeting of the minds... or a successful merger between companies. Something good can happen when two similar, but different, elements enter into a relationship with each other.

"That's a stretch," you might say. And yet, it is this very act of "stretching" that opens the door to new solutions.

If you're stuck in the desert, which would you rather have: A 20-page report telling you where the water is... or a map? Metaphor is the map -- a guide to your own, out-of-the-box solution-finding ability. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words -- especially when that picture, consciously chosen, stretches the imagination just enough to disentangle it from the limitations of ordinary business logic.

If you want to learn more about metaphorical thinking, click here to order It's AHAppening!, Idea Champions' series of five creative thinking guidebooks. Metaphors Be With You, from which this posting was excerpted, is one of the five.

Digital image from

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at November 11, 2008 07:40 AM


Dear Mitch:

If you are inviting all of us to go beyond the two flat dimensions of our bodies ande minds, shouldn't we propose metaphors for the other two?

If Perception is aprehending reality with the senses of our body.
Objectives, Possessing, Showing and Power belong to the same dimension.

And Understanding is aprehending reality with the senses of our mind.
Plans, Doing, Explaining and Knowledge belong to the same dimension.

Then Contemplating is aprehending reality with the senses of our heart.
Dreams, Feeling, Transmiting and Inspiration belong to the same dimension.

And Admiring (Imagining or even better Ideating?) is aprehending reality with the senses of our spirit.
Ideas, Being, Demonstrating, and Wisdom belong to the same dimension.

What about 4D or modelic thinking?

Posted by: JOSE JOAQUIN PEREZ KRUMENACKER [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 12, 2008 01:55 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.
Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
Storytelling at Work
Storytelling at Work is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling in business – why it matters and what you and your organization can do to leverage the impact of storytelling in the workplace.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
Authorized Reseller Logo –
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Webinars Powered by
Idea Champions University
Webinars for online training If you enjoy our blog, you will love our newly launched webinars! Our training is now accessible online to the whole world.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN