The power of metaphor

As you spend more time outside of the technology organization, you’ll hear more metaphors. One of my favorites: nine women can’t make a baby in a month.

For this metaphor, the project deliverable is the baby. The project resources are the women. The saying means that adding more resources won’t make the deliverable appear more quickly.

Metaphors are powerful. They help us home in on what’s most important. You have to use metaphors carefully, though. If you don’t recognize what’s truly important, and build a metaphor around something trivial, you’ll confuse your colleagues.

Metaphors are a type of mental model. In other words, metaphors take real world complexity and reduce it to something simple that many people can understand.

With your technical background, you no doubt have access to tons of scientific models. Think of the Bohr model of the atom. No model is 100% accurate. In fact, that’s the point. You trade accuracy for simplicity.

As you get closer to the front lines of the business, you’ll hear more metaphors. At first, they sound cheesy. But they can be effective. Note the ones that resonate the most with you. Try to think of your own. They’re a great way to broaden your communication skills, so that you can contribute amongst a wider audience.

 

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