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Diamond, M.A. (2014). Metaphoric Processes and Organisational Change: A Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspective. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 14(1):104-129.

(2014). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 14(1):104-129

Metaphoric Processes and Organisational Change1: A Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspective

Michael A. Diamond

Metaphor is more than a linguistic tool; it is a deep process of the human mind. As such, it is a core part of how we develop relationships and communicate with each other. As a deep process, it is both cognitive and emotional. Metaphoric fluidity is a key feature of psychological processes supporting our efforts to cross borders and boundaries. Metaphor is a deep and surface, psychological and linguistic, mode of communicating embodied experience that is beyond words. This article argues that metaphoric fluidity is central to organisational change, and that frozen metaphoric processes, illustrated by the “silo” metaphor and case example, block change.

What is most human is not rationalism but the uncontrolled and incontrollable continuous surge of creative radical imagination. (Castoriadis, 1987, p. 194; 1997)

Metaphor is for most people a device of poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish—a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system in terms of which we both think and act is fundamentally metaphorical in nature … But our conceptual system is not something we are normally aware of. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, p. 3)

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