Common Ground: The Power of Metaphor and Story (Ch.6/7)

When we talk about team play or collaboration, we often talk about the importance of establishing common ground. Trouble is, we spend very few cycles on how to get there.

Here are two approaches that interact in powerful ways:

  • From the literary side of the world there’s a valuable and relevant tool called Metaphor that links abstract notions to concrete things we can observe ..
  • Since the dawn of civilization, we’ve used Story to pass down values and create emotional connections across societies and generations ..

So what does all that mean for us as collaborators?

What if we were to weave metaphor and story together to form a new, more resilient way to get people working together, stitching a durable fabric of ideas and communication principles that everyone can relate to?  Well, actually, we just did. Reread that last sentence. The weaver and fabric metaphors are themselves powerful because they elicit the sense of creating something strong, new and valuable. Putting ourselves .. as collaborators .. into that metaphor is the stuff that draws interest and connection, and the short narratives wrapping around it all quickly evolve into emotional, high impact stories.

When our communication is rich and insightful and touches on our emotions, I’m finding that fundamentally deeper connections can be forged.

All of the sudden, collaboration is not only possible, it’s contagious.

Let’s unpack a few aspects of how these fascinating communication tools can help us.

Q1. Semantic Grounding. From Aristotle to Lakoff much has been said re: the power of metaphor to make the abstract more clear; what are your favorite examples?

Q2. K12 Education. How does the factory metaphor for learning (re: defects) stack up against a more organic metaphor, like the rhizome (re: rooted resilience)?

Q3. Emergence. In “Where Good Ideas Come From” @StevenBJohnson shares Reef, City & Web as 3 metaphors for emergence. Other examples? Something based on weaver or grower idea:  maybe Fabric? or Seedling?

Q4. E20 Storytelling. How can simple narratives tell a story? If we put our enterprise co-workers and stakeholders in the plot and discuss consequences, can we touch emotions?

I hope you’ll join us SAT 8/18 at 11aET as we discuss what I always find a fascinating topic.  If you want to dig further, you’ll find discussion of both threads in The DNA of Collaboration, now on Kindle, with softcover launch planned for Labor Day.

In the book, I discuss over 20 metaphors (including all of these) which can, when used in stories and even simple narratives, provide rich and powerful ways to establish common ground. In truth, language and communication are vast topics, and we are only scratching the surface ..

But as they say, you have to start somewhere.  See you online?

– Chris Jones, author, @sourcepov

About Chris Jones

Thinker. Author. Instigator. Dad. Passionate about learning and coffee. Founder of #smchat and #orgdna. Now writing with #coop52 View all posts by Chris Jones

2 responses to “Common Ground: The Power of Metaphor and Story (Ch.6/7)

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