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Future Coping Strategies: Beyond the constraints of proprietary metaphors


Future Coping Strategies
Definition of coping
Individual coping strategies
Coping strategies of personality types
Corporate coping "recipes"
Popular and traditional coping strategies
Esoteric and "secret" coping strategies
Communicating coping strategies for collective decision-making
Critical importance of metaphor for strategy communication
Emergence of proprietary metaphors
Confronting coping repertories
Constraints on strategic integration in the future
Transcending constraints of proprietary metaphors

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Faced with the complexities and challenges of the times, much effort has gone into the development of models and scenarios through which to comprehend the future and to guide the navigation of policy-makers. Career advancements, and even Nobel Prizes, are strongly linked to the formulation of a model with competitive advantages over those generated by colleagues. This applies to the academic arena, corporate consultancy, and in the worlds of governmental and intergovernmental expertise.

The challenge of developing coping strategies is not confined to governments, corporations or other collectivities, at whatever level of society. Strategic thinking is common to both collectivities and individuals (Theobald, 1992). The "ordinary person", in fact every individual of whatever social class, tends to be attentive, whether consciously or unconsciously, to the development of coping strategies. Authors, gurus, lecture circuits and talk shows do much to purvey particular coping strategies. They are a subject of bar and cocktail discussion. Many, like diets, have their moment of being in fashion and then continue to appeal to smaller constituencies. Diets, namely methods of coping with physical health, do in fact provide a useful metaphor for understanding the sociology of coping strategies.

This article is not concerned with how any particular coping strategy is advocated and used. Of greater interest is the emergence of a sense that no single coping strategy can be relied upon under all circumstances. From this perspective a person, or a corporate body, needs to be able to draw upon a variety of such strategies -- switching between them as circumstances demand. The difficulty is that this posture is effectively sensitive to a higher level of complexity. Communicating and comprehending the set of strategic options then becomes a significant challenge.

The tendency is to describe such strategies, whether individually or as a set, in metaphoric terms. When described in this way, the conceptual framework can be marketed as a proprietary product. Society is faced with a situation in which access to insights on the best ways of coping, and especially the means through which they are described and disseminated, are increasingly restricted to those who are willing or able to pay. Coping strategies are increasingly subject to copyright as intellectual property. As growth opportunities are developed and consolidated in the tertiary sector, such constraints on the use of coping strategies could prove increasingly incapacitating for society.

This article follows from work on governance through metaphor (UIA, 1991) and on the identification of some 8,000 strategies employed by international organizations (UIA, 1986)

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