Metaphor as a Design Tool Also Works For Business Development

Retrieving concepts from metaphors demands creative thinking.  Contemporary theories have defined metaphors as a structuring of our cognitive system.  Metaphors are a way of equating signifier and signified into a new symbols, or at least making parallels between a symbolic construct and something completely new. In other words, metaphors affect the way we perceive the world, categorize experiences, and organize our thoughts. Metaphors not only guide reasoning but also enhance innovative thinking. They allow the marketer, the designer, or the business developer to think unconventionally and encourage the application of novel ideas to problems.

When used to pin down abstract concepts or unusual details, the use of metaphor bridges a major gap of understanding. The use of metaphors helps structure the mind to identify and define similarities and differences, break away from binary thinking and start to examine to problem from the standpoint of a system (as opposed to a series of elements within a system). It is also helpful for explaining strategic decisions back to a client. Few client-provided specifications are all-inclusive, and you can expect questions when your judgment calls don’t match what they imagined. If you explain that you designed your strategy “like Company X,” you can more readily summarize a wide range of choices and elements of the strategic plan, as well as gain added authority by showing that your choices mirror those of a successful strategy.

In design, metaphors are viewed as heuristics that help organize design thinking and tackle ill-defined design problems. Metaphorical reasoning is an iterative process through which designers gradually increase their knowledge of a design situation. Basically, the use of metaphors aids in structuring problems.  The same process can be applied to marketing and business development.  We frequently take observations at face value, focusing on the product or service to such a degree that we can’t open ourselves to new possibilities.

Why does that matter?  Because “innovation” has largely become a buzz word and doesn’t necessarily equate with creative thinking. The result is incremental thinking that is limited by conceptual walls we struggle to break through.  Creative thinking enables one to perceive a problem from unorthodox and innovative perspectives.  Creativity is a captivating and stimulating aspect of human thinking. It has been defined as the ability to restructure old ideas to produce singular inventions and to apply original thinking. It is the capacity to look critically at reality, explore unconventional alternatives, and perceive situations from unexpected perspectives. That leads to real opportunities.




Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: