"I favor general use of the psychic-prison metaphor to free people from the traps of favored ways of thinking and to unleash their power and creativity."
--Gareth Morgan
"We cannot just remodel the prison. No, we've got to get out of it."
--W. Edwards Deming

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The winning metaphor

Allan Revich, in his Work it Out Blog, writes about finding an answer to the question "what does winning look like?" in a recent blog post.

When people have undergone some significant physical and/or emotional trauma, even if it’s to some degree of their own causing, hypervigilance is a common outcome. So, the skills required to help clients at The Center For Victims of Torture in Minneapolis may be different, I’m thinking, than straight conflict management and negotiation skills. Can psychological workplace injuries rise to that level? Reading William L. White’s The Incestuous Workplace and his discussion about his clients who had become "victims of professional distress" in their workplaces and subsequently been painfully extruded from their jobs, still suffering years later from the aftermath, one might be tempted to say “yes”.

I wonder whether the work of James Carse has informed the conflict management community, in particular his book: Finite and Infinite Games. Winning is just another metaphor, after all. To have no losers, we can either modify the metaphor to make everyone a winner, or allow for the continuation of play, as in Carse's notion of infinite games, such that the play does not come to an end, and so the winning metaphor thus loses its meaning.

To review the thesis of finite and infinite games, as Carse says, "in the simplest possible manner":
A finite game is a game you play to win.
An infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing the play.
James P. Carse, Religious War In Light of the Infinite Game ...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cheese as metaphor

From the bestselling business book with cheese in its title:

"What did you do with the Hems who didn't change?" Frank wanted to know. "We had to let them go," Michael said sadly. "We wanted to keep all our employees, but we knew if our business didn't change quickly enough, we would all be in trouble."

Laura Lemay, in her essay "The Cheese Stands Alone", writes about that aspect of the book:

"Ahhh. You will read the cheese book, and you will like the cheese book. It will change your life. Or we will fire your ass."

Jon Carroll from the San Francisco Chronicle offers another critical view of the book in his article "I got your cheese right here". He says that employees forced to read the book discern that "cheese" is a metaphor for "continued employment". Carroll delivers this hard-hitting conclusion:

"Reading 'Who Moved My Cheese?' I was reminded of another book about 'littlepeople' who were constantly required to survive in a mazelike environment characterized by cruel and arbitrary change, another place where the search for cheese was constant. That book is 'The Gulag Archipelago.'