When your business is exactly as you’d like it to be, it will be like what?
This question opens the door to using simile and metaphor as a way of understanding and communicating how you want your business to be.M
A metaphor is when you describe something in terms of it being something else: “All the world’s a stage”. A simile describes something as being like something else: “my love is like a red red rose”. Simile and metaphor are often thought of as literary devices, but in reality, the use of metaphorical language go much deeper than that.
Many metaphors speak to an aspect of our human experience. For example, metaphors associated with positive states often reflect being higher, and negative states being lower. Think about what it’s like to be “on top of the world” versus “down in the dumps”. Compare the visceral experience of “floating on air” versus “wading through treacle”.
Metaphors tell us something about our deeper understanding of the nature of things. They can help us understand ourselves better. And they can also help us in communication to bring more colour and depth to what we’re saying.
In particular, I want to think about how they might be useful in helping us think creatively about the nature of our businesses.
What do you want?
To discover and use metaphors that are right for your business, a helpful starting point is your desired outcome. What will your business be like, when it’s exactly how you want it to be?
Once you’ve come up with a metaphor that resonates, then you can explore it further? What light does this metaphor shed on your business? How can it help you develop your business in a positive way.
Metaphors for how you help your clients
What is the promise that your businesses makes to your clients or customers?
In my career coaching practice for example, I help people to navigate a career crossroads. Coaches sometimes use the metaphor of guiding people on a journey. Or how about a marketing consultant who shows people how to package their ideas?
Glenda Shawley, MD of the Fabulous Networking community has described her business as being like a flower garden. It’s full of a variety of beautiful flowers, representing her members who are all different and unique. They want to grow personally and professionally. And as the gardener in this metaphor, Glenda provides a wide variety of different services that help to nurture and grow the flowers. She brings a caring vibe to her garden and loves seeing people flourish.
Metaphors for how you build your business
Metaphors can focus on how the business runs as well as what it provides. What if your business was like a well-oiled machine? You can imagine all the processes flowing together. Client inquiries are dealt with quickly; products and services are delivered seamlessly. Once you’ve set up a business like this it could release you from spending too much time on day-to-day admin. Instead you are now in the role of supervisor: paying attention to ensure the process remains well-oiled and responding to any friction as it arises.
A metaphor that I came up with was that of an orchard. An orchard of productive fruit trees doesn’t spring up overnight. Fruit trees are relatively small when they’re planted. But if you put the time and effort into nurturing them, they will flourish, And the metaphorical fruits will provide a sustainable income year after year.
In planning your orchard, you might like to think of the variety of fruit that you offer. Many trees thrive through cross pollination, with other varieties.
I was once advised to identify three pillars of income within a business. And it’s helpful if these strands cross pollinate. Skills and knowledge learned in one area can transfer to another. For example, I run workshops on communication skills such as assertiveness. And I also help career transition clients to think through how best to communicate in an interview situation.
Identifying and uncovering metaphors comes more easily to some people than others, as we all think differently. An approach I sometimes use within my coaching practice is known as symbolic modelling. This is a creative facilitated process that can help you develop and embody your own metaphors for a desired state of being.
Find a metaphor for your business
To close this article, I invite you to come up with a metaphor for your own business.
Focus on positive and ask yourself: When my business is exactly how I want it to be, it will be like what?
If you haven’t worked in this way before, it may take a little while to come up with the right metaphor. My advice is not to force it, but to ask the question, relax, and see what comes up. It may be that you put the question at the back of your mind for a while, and an image or sense may pop up later. Or you might like to look around your room our out of the window and see if any of the objects in your sightline prompt an idea.
And if you find metaphor that resonates, then explore it further to see what insights it might give you into how you want to develop your business. Ideally this should be an enjoyable process and a way into thinking creatively.
Do you have a metaphor for your business?
[And please check out my Four Elements article for an example of a metaphor applied to personal development]
[Article originally published on Medium https://felicitydwyer.medium.com/an-orchard-or-a-well-oiled-machine-using-metaphor-in-business-development-915efd3826ad]