15 June 2004

Generative Metaphors Uncover New Potential; everyone is operating within a given set of metaphors or mental models that define their reality. A metaphor can be considered a "figure of thought." Because we think in images, helping people become conscious of the images (metaphors) that best represent their collective experience can be very revealing and empowering. This is true because our images define the boundaries of our experience, filtering and allowing in only a subset of all available information. Changing our images or metaphors, changes our filtering system and hence our experience.
Immersion in the Experience. A first important phase consists of people’s immersion in the experience.
Triggering the Generative Metaphor.
Unarticulated Sense of Similarity. It seems important to notice that, at first, we didn’t have a precise idea of where to go with this idea, but we somehow felt it could apply to our situation.
Naming and Framing. An immediate consequence of this new perspective was a change of vocabulary: we ‘reframed and renamed’.
Explicit Account of Similarities: "Mapping.
New Solutions. The result was a new approach, and a solution.

Key Points

Jokes often carry new metaphors: after all the point of a joke is an interruption of the expected line of thought. If the new image is carried further into task strategies however, it tends to open up new options.

Leave the problem. Another way to cope with growing frustration is to take a break. Here again it seems that this interruption is a chance to break with the line of thought the group is getting stuck in as well as with the frustration itself: generative metaphors seem to regularly come up right after breaks.

Metaphors hold possibilities and restrictions. As group members enact their images, they may get stuck in the situation they created. Help them find an image that depicts their dilemma, then a new one that might serve them better.

"Stuckness" as an entry to metaphor change. When people are stuck, they may be more receptive to seeing things differently or to intervention by the facilitator to help them explore new perspectives. Therefore, it's important for facilitators to be sensitive to "stuckness" indicators which might include: disengagement, silences, repetition of events or conversations that don't offer a solution, facial expressions, sighs, changes in voice sound, etc.

"For every person with a spark of genius, there are a hundred with ignition trouble".

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