You are here

Innovative Global Management through Metaphor


Innovative Global Management through Metaphor
Imaginal deficiency
Examples of more powerful metaphors
Programme of metaphoric development
Conclusion: Governance through metaphor

[Parts: Next | Last | All] [Links: To-K | From-K | From-Kx | Refs ]

Paper prepared for the Conference on Social Innovation in Global Management organized by the Weatherhead School of Management of Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, November 1989)

Abstract: After stressing the possibility that inadequacies in global management may in part be due to poverty of imagination or imaginal deficiency, the paper points to the value of metaphor in facilitating comprehension of much richer and more dynamic policy patterns. The power of such metaphors is illustrated by three examples: an ecosystem of species interrelated by food webs offers insights into possible relationships between seemingly incompatible and policies; traditional rotation of agricultural crops in a field suggests that it might be more appropriate to work with a cycle of quite different policies to ensure sustainable development; a configuration of quite distinct and possibly incompatible policies, can be fruitfully explored using insights from chemical molecules structured as resonance hybrids. Considering that the electoral cycle of governments precludes coherent long-term policies required for sustainable development, such metaphors are used to argue that it is more feasible and appropriate to aim for a sustainable ecology of development policies than for any particular, politically unsustainable, development policy.


This paper is based on the assumption that it is useful to question whether the many existing approaches to global management, however successful, are sufficent to the challenge of the times. Individually they may indeed be necessary and adequate to particular challenges, but there is every possibility that they may collectively be insufficent to the larger challenge.

For space reasons, the paper first briefly explores some major constraints on global management and innovative approaches to it. Experience of past development decades indicates that implementation of desirable institutional innovations is likely to remain limited however much lip service is paid to them. Part of the difficulty would seem to lie in imaginal deficiency on the part of both the innovators and of those to whom the innovations must be made credible. There is merit therefore in exploring radical approaches to ways of configuring the conceptual elements which are the basis for any social innovation -- and relating them to the forms of imagery currently favoured (for good reason) by politicians.

Examples are given of much more powerful metaphors, and sets of metaphors, as providing a more appropriate conceptual scaffolding to deal with the complex issues of global management. Consideration is then given to the further work required to develop this approach and to determine its limitations.

This paper results from long-term explorations of the significance of information collected on the networks of some 20,000 international bodies described in the Yearbook of International Organizations, and on the 10,000 "world problems" with which they claim to be concerned, as described in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential.

[Parts: Next | Last | All] [Links: To-K | From-K | From-Kx | Refs ]