This method supports reflective practice and metaphorical/lateral thinking. It can help people approach a project flexibly and expand their ability to look at a topic from many perspectives.
Applying different or unusual metaphors to an issue or project can help people see the project through new eyes and can help generate fresh thinking and new ideas. In this simple method, people are asked to think of their project, issue, community in metaphorical terms. For example, if this team were like a dolphin, it would be aquadynamic and fast, but at the same time it would take plenty of time just to enjoy itself and to play. This process can help participants become more aware of the types of metaphors that are typically used in relation to specific issue and the mindsets that those metaphors create. At the same time it empowers them to proactively choose the metaphors and language they wish to apply and to experiment with multiple perspectives. It can also demonstrate how the metaphors we use often determine the possibilities we see.
This method also works very well for online use. You can share a pre-prepared metaphorical question via a PPT presentation (accompanied by an evocative picture), and ask participants to jot down their ideas on a piece of paper. Then, participants' thoughts can be shared either in plenary or in break-out rooms.
Images may be helpful to stimulate ideas.
Easy to use online: Share screen and ask people to stand up, look at the image for 30 seconds, and then write brainstorm what comes to mind.
Example: Invite participants to imagine, for example, a traditional church or spiritual gathering place. What is essential for a spiritual gathering? E.g. A place to sing together, a place to gather and exchange news, a place to be inspired, etc… If our project was like a church, we might want to consider…
Could ask: Are the ideas that you came up with the same as you would come up with with a more traditional questions.
Some ideas: this ______ is like a forest; this ______ is like a mountain; this ______ is like a church or a temple; this ______ is like a river; this ______ is like a house
Variation: Participants can come up with their own metaphors
McCourt, W. (1997). Discussion note: Using metaphors to understand and to change organizations: A critique of Gareth Morgan's approach.
Ippolito, L. M., & Adler, N. J. (2018). Shifting metaphors, shifting mindsets: Using music to change the key of conflict.
The art of the metaphor by Jane Hirshfield
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