Innovation Through Metaphor for Science, Business and Policy-Making

In nature we see certain concepts and structures occur again and again: colonisation on the scale of a civilisation vs. colonisation of your gut by new bacteria, flow of blood in your arteries, of water through a leaf, of cars through Geneva… The examples are countless.

We will explore how metaphor can be used to spark innovation in science, business, and policy: When are metaphors useful? When do they break down? How can we harness their power?

Detailed format of the workshop

  • Building metaphor-making skills: The workshop will begin with an overview of how to build metaphors using techniques from the worlds of improvisation and songwriting.
  • Problems to tackle: We will segue toward the natural and designed world to create a repository of problem-solution structures (for example, harnessing energy is a common problem for which nature has already found many different solutions). Participants will then be separated into groups based on maximal distribution of expertise. Each group will focus on a problem to solve, ranging from technology to policy.
  • Metaphor match-making and implication discovery: Once a concrete problem has been defined, through a series of exercises participants will work to find a metaphorical match using the repository we built together as an aid. Then each group will explore their problem through the lens of the metaphor to see the depth of the parallel, what insights can be gained, and what solutions can be put forth. By the end, each group will have the overlapping webs of their metaphorical problem-solution, and their original problem, hopefully now paired with a new and innovative solution.

The session will close with each group presenting their problem, metaphorical match, and solution to the other participants.

Held at Lift 2016, Geneva by Adria LeBoeuf