We Are Not Building a Volkswagen

Metaphors shape us in incredibly meaningful ways.  They often serve as a North Star of sorts, helping us chart a significant course.  They unlock and make accessible complex concepts. Unfortunately, when we embrace faulty metaphors we get off track and misunderstand important ideas.  So radically shaped by a particularly misguiding mental image, it is only when we replace it that we are able to experience clarity.  One such expired metaphor operates under the name “team-building”.  When we imagine the process of building, it typically involves structures that are static, dependent, unresponsive and infertile.  We build skyscrapers, Volkswagens & the Golden Gate Bridge.  When we work to translate the same perspective which shapes wood, steel & glass into language which lends itself to making the most of our team, I think we go awry.  I wonder if we might be better off to begin speaking about team-growing experiences.  Perhaps those whom we call team-mates would be better represented by metaphors which express dynamism, organics, reaction, and generativity.  Then we might begin to ask ourselves what kinds of natural resources must be in abundant supply in order to for our staff to thrive.  When we begin to focus on team-growing, we have our antennas up for those elements which are disruptions and disturbances and work to eradicate them before they take hold in the environment and thwart progress.  Lastly, knowing that we work with an entity which continues to evolve and adapt, we set in place priorities which lead to sustainability and on-going symbiosis.  When we have been tasked with caring for, guiding and inspiring a team of people toward a shared mission we can choose to be guided by mechanistic metaphors or seek to find the way in which the concept of team-growth can lead the way.

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