Metaphor technique for creative problem solving


Metaphor technique 

1. Description

Metaphor technique consists in creating new possibilities, means and solutions by discovering and suggesting similarities between a problem or focal object (target) and some other object, field of activity or conceptual space (source), as well as the subsequent transference of the properties, ideas, relations and meanings from the source object to a target object.
Metaphor technique allows to include target object in new areas of activity, new contexts and semantic worlds. It helps to see the object or problem in a new light, rethink it and discover previously inaccessible resources.

2. Main functions

1. Source of powerful and extraordinary solutions. Metaphor technique or metaphorical thinking can be considered as heuristic and useful tool for creative problem solving, that give new directions to evolve and develop ideas. It allows us to look at things from a new perspective, so to enhance creativity and generate new extraordinary ideas for solutions.
2. Communicative, influencing or persuasive function. Metaphors appeal to the imagination of recipients, help to bring messages across and make them clear and understandable. The charming function and faculty of captivating an audience remain one of the most powerful strengths of creative metaphor. Metaphors are great for creating impact and can be effectively used in marketing and advertising.
3. Creative metaphor has to motivate and direct power and potential for expanding consciousness. Therefore, the metaphor technique broad the conceptual domain and space of meanings stimulates the imagination, creates vivid, meaningful images, leads to the generation and development of new ideas.
4. Metaphors can serve as a means of identifying problems and understanding them better. In the history of cognition and experience, the picture of the world, man and other complex objects, were explained using metaphors as compact and meaningful models.

3. The essence of the method

The essence of metaphor is expressing one kind of thing in terms of another, by the transference of name and meaning.
A metaphor manifests itself as creating an uncommon juxtaposition of the familiar and the unusual, as identifying similarities between two disparate problems or fields, which enables one to perceive a problem from unorthodox and innovative perspectives.
By using a metaphor, you can change your point of view, easier to see new possibilities, spot new insights and generate original ideas. Metaphors help you think differently about something or “think outside the box” and generate alternative solutions to solve the original problem.
The metaphor is based on a vision of world unity. It is not simply a figure of speech based on a finding of similarity between the source and target objects, but a fundamentally new and holistic vision of reality.
The powerful, unusual and vivid metaphor helps to open and expand your consciousness, creates a new vision and holistic Metamodels, and offers you a conceptual strategy.
So, Charles Revson’s statement: “Perfume is made in the factory, ‘hope’ is sold in the store”, and “We don’t sell lipsticks. We sell dreams” – provide the strategic vision, design and marketing activities of the company, show company’s employees” some key benchmarks.
According to Aristotle, a metaphor “… is the mark of genius – for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances”. Jose Ortega y Gasset stated that the metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities.

4. Methodological and theoretical grounds

Neural biological research suggests some metaphors are innate. Besides language and thought, they themselves are metaphorical by nature. The very creation of metaphors is thoughtfully connected with the processes of creative and visual thinking, imagination and creativity.
The metaphor method is closely related to the methods of similes, associations, bisociation, analogies and forced connections. They are “branches of the same tree”. Moreover, exactly metaphor lies at the heart of these techniques and it is generally considered more forceful than an analogy and simile.
Metaphor involves simile and analogy, based on different types of similarity and manifests itself like a compressed, implicit, hidden simile and analogy.
Simile, analogy and metaphor technique based on making an implied comparison and on looking at similarities between two things or areas. “The successful use of metaphor is a matter of perceiving similarities.” – stated Aristotle.
Metaphor and simile.
A metaphor, unlike a simile, states that something is something else without using the word like or as. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. A Metaphor makes an implicit, implied, or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated. Thus, comparisons are obvious not metaphors.
A metaphor creates new links between otherwise distinct conceptual domains and not simply find but create and suggest a resemblance.
Metaphor and analogy.
Metaphors and analogies work by bringing together concepts from different conceptual domains. In the broadest sense of the term, all metaphors are simple analogies, but not all analogies are metaphors.
However, metaphor is different from analogy:
1. The creation of metaphor is based on visualization, symbolization, productive imagination and visual thinking. Imagery is the core of the metaphoric language.
That is why, metaphor, which evokes vivid ideas and uses intense imagery
is understood as a “figurative analogy”.
2. Metaphor is not simply the transference of certain features and relations, but also values, cultural associations, clouds of meanings and connotations. Metaphor brings together two otherwise disparate domains and spaces of meanings, which leads to the creation and development of new meanings. In this case, the metaphor corresponds to the “semantic analogy”.
3. Metaphor carries out the semantic synthesis of disparate domains and creates new integral information and contexts, and appears as a “condensed, folded analogy”. In this case, the transference of meaning occurs instantly on the basis of a “coagulated analogy” that is kept in mind.
4. Metaphor requires the activation of not only thinking, but also creative imagination and implementation of the “as if” technique, that makes the impossible possible.
5. Metaphors are often unconscious and the creation of metaphors selectively used sensory and bodily experience.

Metaphor formula

• Metaphor involves simile and analogy and based on different types of similarity;
• A simile is finding and transference of similar features;
• An analogy is finding and transference of similar features and relations;
• Metaphor is finding, creating and transference of similar features, relations, terms, entities and clouds of vivid meanings from one object to another.

Different kinds of metaphors
A conceptual metaphor consists of two conceptual domains, in which one domain is understood in terms of another, a visual metaphor uses an image to create the link between different ideas and a nonlinguistic metaphor is an association between two nonlinguistic realms of experience.

5. Rules

1. Determine the essence of the problem, object or massage. The choice of a source object should capture the integrity and reflect the essence of the target object.
2. Created metaphors should be clear and understandable to your audience. Metaphors work best when they are simple, short, concrete and crisp, sensory, testable, surprisable, unexpected, lively, and vivid as possible.
3. The strength, unusualness and beauty of the metaphor are based on a comparison of the incomparable, on a comparison of objects that are usually not compared.
4. It is desirable to make powerful visual imagery, use pictures, symbols, and diagrams and combine it with words.

6. Basic steps

1. Define the problem or choose an object representing its essence.
2. Select a distant object, a sphere of reality or type of activity. Connect your problem with remote domains and unrelated fields.
Visualize them by continuing the sentence:
My problem is like driving a car, cultivating a garden, directing a movie, keeping a pet, writing a novel, robbing a bank, fighting, building a house, travelling, dancing, hunting, cooking and eating or as parliamentary elections, sports, war, detective stories, jazz compositions.
3. Make a comparison with these distant fields and identify the similarity or connecting attributes, images, essences. Set up only essential correspondences and similarities between the metaphorical source and your problem.
4. Transfer the characteristics, relations, values, meanings from the selected remote area to your problem. Express your problem or object using the terms, concepts, and meanings of the source object.
5. Generate some metaphors of the problem at hand.
6. Choose the most vivid, imaginative, provocative and deep metaphors and relate them to your problem, creating a new vision of the problem, new ideas and solutions.
These ideas, which come from the metaphors, may not in themselves, be practical ideas but they generally lead to a novel solution.
6. Transfer the solution from the metaphor to your original problem or issue.
See how the solution ideas for the metaphorical problem might relate back to the real problem and use them to find a workable solution to the real problem.
7. Sort and evaluate all information compiled. The best ideas for problem resolution are recorded for team action.

7. Advantages

1. Metaphors are necessary and not just nice. (Andrew Ortony)
2. Metaphor is a way of exploring a subject, a way of seeing a subject through a prism of new perspectives. (Joseph M. Williams)
3. While a picture might be worth a thousand words, a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures. (Daniel Pink)
4. Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. (Orson Scott Card)

8. Disadvantages 

1. Metaphors are double-edged sword. They can both clarify and confuse the problem. Frozen, mixed, worn-out and dead metaphors are especially dangerous.
2. The use of the metaphor technique assumes the presence of the participant’s creative attitude and creative abilities and inspiration when completing a task.


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