Academic journal article Global Journal of Business Research

Metaphors Impact Daily Decisions by Managers and Leaders

Academic journal article Global Journal of Business Research

Metaphors Impact Daily Decisions by Managers and Leaders

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In a world filled with complexities, people have turned to metaphors to provide a meaningful way to comprehend and communicate what they experience. In recent business literature, metaphors are used to describe organizations, and even guide the diagnosis of problems, because of their power to draw attention particular aspects of real situations. Extensive literature exists promoting various metaphors in this role or reviewing the efficacy of their use. What has not been explored is whether people in organizations also use metaphors, often without conscious thought, in ways that influence their decisions. The assumption here is that metaphors operate like powerful paradigms that have associated values, beliefs, language, and actions. This research explores the following questions: Can metaphors and associated paradigms be identified? Can preferences for particular metaphors be measured using preferences for particular sets of values, beliefs, language and actions? In a sample of 176 students, the researcher was able to provide an answer of "yes" to both of the questions. People do have preferences for particular metaphors, even if they have not named them. Those preferences, through the associated values, beliefs, and actions, impact the practical decisions that are made in organizations.

JEL: M100

KEYWORDS: Business Administration, Management, Metaphors, Decision-Making

INTRODUCTION

In a world filled with complexities, people have turned to metaphors to provide a meaningful way to comprehend and communicate what they experience. Because metaphors have their own associated information, their use focuses attention on similarities between the metaphor and the real world. Other information about the real situation is often then ignored. This simplifies what needs to be understood about the actual situation. Metaphors have traditionally been used in literature; the most famous use may be Shakespeare's referring to all the world's a stage. In business, Adam Smith's Invisible Hand is one of the most commonly used metaphors. Because of their power to draw attention to particular aspects of real situations, in more recent business literature, metaphors are used to describe organizations, and even guide the diagnosis of problems. Extensive literature exists promoting various metaphors in this role or reviewing the efficacy of their use.

In this researcher's over 40 years of experience as a manager in organizations and organizational consultant, he has been struck by the consistent use of language that can be associated with metaphors. Organizations are often described as growing or dying. They "learn," or are "political," express "values," or have "finite capacity." These are all examples of statements made from particular metaphoric perspectives. Observations, such as these, become part of the fabric of thinking within organizations. But, like the air breathed, they are taken for granted rather than consciously considered.

What has not been explored in the literature is a practical reality that people in organizations use metaphors, most often without conscious thought, in ways that influence their decisions. In this use, metaphors operate like powerful paradigms that have associated values, beliefs, language, and actions. Is this statement true? If it is, can metaphors and associated paradigms be identified? Can preferences for particular metaphors be measured using preferences for particular sets of values, beliefs, language and actions? This research seeks to confirm whether metaphors in use do function as paradigms and whether preferences for particular metaphors can be identified. Participants have the opportunity to rank features of particular metaphors to reflect their metaphoric preferences.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The literature exploring the use of metaphors in organizations has rarely addressed the use of metaphors by people within organizations as they consider situations and make everyday decisions. …

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