Applying the metaphor for new perspectives.


Organizations seem to become ever more complex. Managers and problem-solvers therefore have to become ever more skilled in the art of seeing; seeing the situations that they are attempting to organize or manage. Many people regard this ability as something one is born with, like you have 'born teachers'. However, if the processes used are closely observed, we find that insight and knowledge is often based on deep appreciation (i.e. understanding) of the situations investigated.
The people able to do so have the capacity to remain open and flexible and do not judge hastily. They are able to look at the concrete facts and are not prejudiced. They are aware of the fact that new insights appear when situations are seen from different angles; that we often only see what we want to see. Besides being problem-solvers they are opportunity-seekers.
Ineffective managers and problem-solvers are characterized by prejudices, lack of alternatives, repetitiveness and trying to score on debating points.
In the book "Images of Organization" Gareth Morgan works out the theme of "reading organizations" by means of metaphors. The metaphor as basis of the images (=pictures) which we use to theorize and analyze organizations.
Reframing by means of metaphors is providing new perspectives to a ‘familiar’ situation. When ‘objective’ systems descriptions are created they are related to particular view-points.
When I try to describe a situation as a system, I am trying to find a way of thinking about it that will help me to see how it could achieve something for somebody. Though I will want to give my system a convenient name, so that
I can talk about it and think about it more easily, I am not naming a completely objective entity, like a football, or an elephant, which everyone would agree about.
A system's description is partly subjective and 'private', it is a real situation which can be checked by others.
When different people, with different interests, prepare a systems description of the same situation they may generate very different pictures.
So when you talk about a particular systems description, you must
—the name of the system
—the person (or people) who own the description and named it
—what their special interest was in describing the system as they have done.

The main aim of reframing with a metaphor is to become aware of the participant’s way of looking at reality, their projections as it were.
More often than not most of what we see in the eye of the observer.
When we point the finger at others there are always three fingers pointing at ourselves....?

The metaphors and paradoxes offered should not be seen as the one and only way to look at an organization. Many organizations have mixed forms, in the course of time different managers have introduced and developed different approaches. But what matters for the change agent is to be able to see and visualize the way the people see or somethimes want to see their organization. This will only be possible if the change agent has a clear view of her/his own view (and projections) at the world.
Working in the manner described here may give you more insight into your way of looking and make you more conscious of all that there is to see.
G. Morgan presents metaphors to learn "to read" organizations, of course once understood well, they can also be used "to write" (i.e. design) organizations. The use of metaphors may help us find new ways of visualizing and picturing what we mean.
” The image is an essential poem at the heart of things.” C. Jung
They can help us and others see what we mean, but they should always be treated with care. No metaphor is ever completely true! A metaphor is an aid, it can make one aware that there is more and can be an incentive to act.
It helps to become aware of what lives deepest in us and communicate with others. It is the language of our souls :
“The psyche creates reality every day.
The only expression I can use for this activity is fantasy.
... Fantasy, therefore, seems to me the clearest expression of the specific activity of the psyche.”
C.G. Jung

How the shark can give a new perspective to the change agent
A metaphor is a picture, an image. The key to metaphorical thinking is comparing unrelated concepts and finding similarities between them.
Example (from Roger von Oech) What do a cat and a refrigerator have in common? They both have a place to put fish; they both have tails; they purr; they come in a variety of colors; they both get hurt if you don’t treat them well; and, they both have a lifetime of about fifteen years.
It is a way to get outside the normal way of thinking: the paradigm. We have two brain halves (see ABC van XYZ); the left is the logical rational side, the right is the ‘imagining’ side. If we try to analyse a situation with the left side only, anything that is not logical will be overlooked. The use of metaphors is the concrete picture which is like a ‘guided tour’ (metaphorically speaking) outside the left brain boundaries into the right side. Or metaphorically speaking: left brain use is like the tourist, who knows what he wants and pays to get exactly that. He wants certainty. The right brain is the explorer’s or adventurer’s side: he knows were he is going but not what it may bring. In that way he meets the unexpected.
In creative thinking usually much stress is put on the ability to visualize things. After the tour through the right brain we come back in the logical rational left brain and translate the images into concrete reality. In this manner we have extended our scope and view.

An essential tool in the change agent’s tool kit.

The shark - a preamble.....
Dinosaurs once stalked the land. Pterodactyl winged their way across the sky. However, more than 200 million years before these creatures held dominion over land and sky, sharks swam in the seas. And though the dinosaurs have vanished, the shark - probably the longest-ived animal on Earth - is stll with us.
Sharks are among the most primitive of all living vertebrates, untouched by the forces of evolution. They have survived, and remained largely unchanged, for 400 milion years simply because they are the creatures best suited for survival - perfectly outfitted in their structure, their senses, their mating habits, and their resistance to disease. Sharks’ only predators are other sharks and human beings, although porpoises are sometimes considered sharks’ enemies. Many of the adaptations that have enabled the shark to long endure also enable individual shark species to be long-lived, attaining life spans that range from twenty-five to one hundred years.
What are the unique characteristics of the shark that have enabled it to survive when other aimals have vanished?
Sharks do not have a bone in their bodies. The skeletons of sharks are made of pure cartilage. Its non-rigid body appears almost elastic in motion. There is at least one disadvantage to the lack of bone: it has no ribcase to protect its vital organs.
Sharks usually swim at three to five miles per hour and cannot stop quickly.
Sharks must be constant on the move in order to live and to keep from sinking; some varieties never even sleep. They can stop swiming only in rapidly moving water current that will push water into their gills.
The shark’s unique sense organs are invaluable aids to food-gathering. Each of the shark’s senses comes into play at a different point in the hunt, ensuring that the prey cannot sneak by. The shark’s hearing can be measured in thousands of meters; the shark’s sense of smell in hundreds of meters. The vision of the shark is limited to about fifty feet, and touch and taste obviously require contact. All the sense organs work together to make the shark a feared hunter.
Teeth and jaws
The jaws and teeth of the shark are rightfully famous - or infamous. A shark’s teeth vary in shape according to the specific species’ main food. Generally speaking, a shark’s teeth are arranged along the borders of the upper and lower jaws. They are used for seizing, cutting, piercing, and crunching. Situated along the gums are four complete sets of fully developed replacement teeth, which move forward as the front row of teeth wears out. As the exchange takes place a new fifth row is formed. The teeth in the upper jaw of a young shark are replaced every 7.2 days; the teeth in the lower jaw, every 8.2 days. A shark can use up more than 20,000 teeth in ten years because the considerable biting force (6,613.8 pounds per square centimeter) exerted by the jaws often damages the teeth.

Interesting, but what is the use of the above facts?
I have taken this particular animal because it is probably one of the most successful (large) living creatures and very flexible: it is always moving just like a successful change agent.....

one picture says more than 10000 words
Chinese saying

To practice the use of metaphors as a change agent’s way to create new opportunities:

1. Note down in a mind map all the specific characteristics and facts of the shark.
2. Then use your imagination and relate them to the change agent’s job and add these
(in a different colour).

The main difficulty of analysis is that the observer is part of the same reality, he/she is observing. We cannot see our own eye nor bite our own teeth. However, by specifying different characteristics of the situation under observation, we get closer to objective reality. It should therefore always be borne in mind that whatever draws our attention in any situation, is the result of our own knowledge and experience. So focussing on the shark is really a trip to get a better view of yourself. We are part of a continuous process (a continuum) just as the organization under observation.
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