Why you need to think twice about using metaphors


Especially animal metaphors. Check out this article from Smithsonian magazine. Here's a snip:

    In the business world, 800-pound gorillas run with the big dogs, swim with the sharks and occasionally find themselves up to their a$%s in alligators. And if they are not crazy like a fox, they can get caught like a deer in the headlights.

    Yes, it's a jungle out there. Why else would H. Ross Perot have tormented the hapless, imperial CEO Roger Smith by declaring, "Revitalizing General Motors is like teaching an elephant to tap dance. You find the sensitive spots and start poking"? (Or did he say "lap dance"?) Why else would Warren Buffett lament corporate misgovernance by saying: "There is a tendency to put cocker spaniels on compensation committees, not Doberman pinschers"?

    I don't mean to be a spoilsport. Businesspeople have a lot to learn from the animal world. But there are at least two problems here: one is that they trot out the same tired analogies over and over. Their companies spend millions developing iconic logos and otherwise polishing the corporate image, and then they go around prattling about lions, foxes and sharks. Predators ought to show a little more flair than that.

    But what's worse is that they almost always get their animal behaviors wrong. So let's just dispense with a few myths right now:

Do read the rest—you'll never look at metaphors the same way again. Then send it (anonymously, if need be) to any of your organization's execs who take the microphone at your meetings.

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