Mar 7, 2003

Gareth Morgan on Metaphors in Management: The Pros and Cons

Much of management thinking in the late 1990s is being dominated by two broad types of metaphor. The first urges us to embrace images of flux and transformation. One perspective here encourages us to jump into the melee of hyper-competition by beating, outsmarting and upending our competition before they beat us. Another encourages us to move our organizations toward "edge of chaos" situations and see the transformations that emerge.

A second broad type of metaphor is encouraging us to become corporate bankers by levering and developing intellectual capital to meet the demands of a knowledge economy. Great metaphors with great insights. But, hopelessly flawed unless you see that they are just metaphors. The challenge is to take the creative insights and lever them for all their worth. But avoid the weaknesses and limitations, or they will come back to haunt you.