Analytics and data-driven decisions are the next advance in business and the world. This represents a big change for many (maybe most) organizations and people. We need a bridge to make this change happen at all levels…strategic, tactical, operational and in day-to-day activities. Metaphors are one of the most effective of these bridges. They are mental shorthand, and speed understanding, leading to better, faster and cheaper solutions. Some examples of ways I have seen and used metaphors include:
- Capture revenue and profits faster e.g. data science as a weather cycle
- Save time and energy e.g. an agile methodology backlog as a conveyor belt
- Speed acceptance of new ideas e.g. a company’s analytics function as a retail store
- Prescribe change as opposed to merely predicting it e.g. business intelligence maturity as a hauling van
We use metaphors every day without even thinking about them. They are fun and useful. For instance, the metaphor for “money” is usually “water.” Cash flow. Liquid assets. Investment pools. If you are interested in more examples, read Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson (1980).
Research into the use of metaphors in language and their applicability to computing is already vast and deep, and just getting started in a big way. By comparison, the metaphors I use are fairly simple and something anybody can picture in the everyday world. If we talk, we will likely be using a metaphor somewhere in the conversation.