The Importance of Metaphors in Management Learning

Pat Kirwan - Management Musings

I am not sure when humankind first told stories as we gathered around a camp fire in winter for warmth and protection. I am fairly sure it was soon after we developed language as a means to coordinate our communal existence and transmit hard-won knowledge to the next generation. The literature of the major religions provide many stories, parables, metaphors and other analogical ways of explaining important and difficult concepts to the listener and thus help generate a common understanding for their believers.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a metaphor as “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them” [1]. We commonly underestimate the extent to which we rely on metaphors and how embedded they are in the way we talk about and understand the…

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