Welcome to the 9th Episode of Coffee Conversations with Stephen Hayward of Project X.
Today I welcome back Jim to join me in a discussion on Metaphors and Technology. In a post we did a couple of weeks ago and again this week, we endeavoured to use metaphors to help ground the various aspects of Data Warehousing.
So as Harvey would say “Keep it simple, I am a simple man”.
Please enjoy, feel free to comment and have a great day!
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Some great additional thoughts. I think one of the things as you discussed is the purpose of the metaphor.
Once that purpose is achieved we have to move back to the task at hand. The one thought I had on keeping it alive is if the lateral thinking of the metaphor can help us leverage other peoples experience in problem solving – such as in the retail example we discussed.
As I mentioned in the conversation about the fellow who used the wrong metaphor for navy officers, a bad metaphor can really distract rather than clarify. Also as MIP mentioned, you have to be careful not to use the metaphor too long. You have to switch the terminology back to the real thing quickly.
I am recalling Einsteins thought experiments. I wonder if they qualify as metaphors or were they simple ways of explaining an experiment. The one I am thinking of is the fellow in a elevator moving quickly with no frame of reverence looking out a peep hole at something also moving. What happens as he approaches the speed of light? Is that a metaphor? I think it qualifies.
Jim – you beat me to what I was going to say. I just finished listening to the latest CoffeeCast and it was really good (Steve – you were a bit under mic’d) and gave me some interesting aspects to think about.
I was going to jump on here and say that having a good internal concept (which is like your mental model) of a solution is key and that an easy to grasp metaphor helps to develop that.
I also find in my work, be it when I was consulting or now leading an IT department, that daily you are having to bridge non-technical people with technical people and that a well thought out metaphor is often an excellent tool to doing this.
The important thing is to recognize where a metaphor starts and stops so not to misrepresent a technology and/or solution or to really allow people to think out of the box.
I had another insight while listening to my conversation with Stephen. In order to really understand something, we must have a mental model of the item. Metaphors help me develop my mental model. The metaphor is really not the model but it makes a contribution to the building of the mental model. Mental models are really an important elements in our ability to learn. In Senge’s Fifth Discipline, Mental Models is a key discpline. I think it is the third. I think it goes back to Harvey’s idea of keeping things simple because we all need good mental models and simple ones are the best.