Metaphor as a catalyst for positive change

//Metaphor as a catalyst for positive change

I am often asked for “proof” that metaphor techniques work in the business environment and also in other situations such as community, home, family and school. I have been using metaphor techniques since 2000 and have many examples of success in team environments.  Due to privacy and research ethics restrictions, I cannot reveal specifically who these examples apply to, but I can discuss the situations in a generic sense to highlight the power of metaphor interactions.
One team had a 30% turnover rate amongst employees and reduced this to zero during the time of the metaphor based development process (over a period of 12 months).  Another organisation was able to foster stronger relationships with their stakeholders to secure more support for a significant project. A third situation enabled a coach to reengage a disengaged employee returning him to a positive contributor.  Another individual attributed coping with a significant restructure to being able to analyse and understand the behavioural environment better and thus depersonalise the outcomes. More details of these cases will be published with the release of my PhD thesis in early 2012 as well as the Reflective Impact Diary through which they were collated.
Meanwhile, some facilitators, consultants and knowledge practitioners are beginning to experiment with the techniques in novel ways and share these experiences to further develop the techniques.  This group called the Organizational Zoo Ambassadors Network meet monthly to discuss how they are applying the concepts and the impacts they achieve.  We will share some of these anonymously through the OZAN wiki (members only site) and also some more publicly through related blogs.
Behaviour can also have the opposite effect, in that inappropriate behaviours can limit performance.  One organisation that had over 30% turnover (a good indication there was a behavioural issue) was exposed to the Zoo metaphor and employees were interested to understand it further. They participated in the research and generally agreed that the techniques had merit (based on anonymous written feedback from workshops).  However, when it came to implementing the techniques they did not even try to do so.  The key reason for not doing so was, they were too busy doing the tasks to be able to engage in anything new.  So, despite them being quite unhappy with their situation and happy with a mechanism to help them improve it, they displayed Triceratops, Rattlesnake and Vulture in order to prevent any significant changes.  The turnover continues to be an issue for the organisation and people remain quite stressed and task focused.
Metaphor techniques enable us to stimulate conversations that matter about the positive and negative impacts of behaviours in our environment. A comprehensive set of metaphors that are both creative and fun, help to create an environment where people can exchange views on behaviours in constructive and non-political ways to develop understanding and build relationships.  When leaders trust their people to invest time in engaging in such activities and support them by participating themselves, truly amazing outcomes can be achieved.

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