Functions of Metaphors in Management

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Functions of Metaphors in Management
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

Methaphors can play an important role in organizations/organizational theory. They broadly have two major functions or impacts, which are summarized by Foropon and McLachlin:
1. Explanatory effect: A methaphor entails a certain way of thinking that strongly affects how we understand the world as a whole. More specifically looking at organizational theory, methaphors can be very useful in creating a greater understanding of certain organizational operations and situations. This explanatory impact in turn has some further effects: Seeing an organization in a certain way leads to a certain way of thinking about how the organization functions; this in turn creates ways to manage the organization. Thus it is not only understanding the organization that results from the explanatory impact, but also creating ways to manage it.
2. Generative effect: Metaphors encourage creating new interesting propositions about and attitudes towards organizational life by its imagery conveyed. These new insights can later on be converted into new hypotheses and possible theories. In other words, metaphors can contribute to the development of new theories.
Source: Foropon, C. And R. McLachlin. (2013). "Metaphors in operations management theory building". International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 33 Iss: 2, pp.181 - 196



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