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Practice 4: Use Stories, Metaphors, Analogies, and Pictures as Much as Possible

6 October, 2015 - 15:20

Effective communication systems connect the hearts and minds of the rest of the organization. Stories, metaphors, and analogies are powerful ways to communicate complex information in compelling ways. John Kotter emphasizes that this is particularly important for communicating the change vision. He restates the truism that “a verbal picture is worth a thousand words.” 1

However, figurative communication in the form of verbal pictures or graphic depictions is also essential for building confidence in the change program. Stories are pithy narratives with plots, characters, and twists that are full of meaning. Leaders are discovering that the telling of actual “success stories” can often be the catalyst for momentum behind a change initiative. 2 Metaphors and analogies are inferential techniques to transfer the meaning of something that is known to another thing that is unknown. For example, Plato compared our perception of reality to shadows on the wall of a cave. Darwin used diagrams of trees to help explain his theory of evolution. And Shakespeare saw the world as a stage. 3 Organizational change, by definition, requires employees to try something new and move into the unknown. Communication systems that rely on stories, metaphors, and analogies can make the unknown future state more attractive and understandable.