Elite Metaphors

by Raphael Haase

Last week, I went to a soft skill weekend of the Elite Network of Bavaria (ENB), the organization that supports our Technology Management program and allows us to do participate in these events.

Those seminar weekends are primarily about three things: meeting people, learning some tools for communication and great food. Surprisingly, few people seem to know about this offering. Which makes those meetings a little cozier, but also bears the risk of the ENB reducing those measures.

Those seminar weekends take place multiple times a year for all members of the ENB. You usually pick one of the courses when registering and they often ofter very similar courses the next time.

I chose a course about arguing with metaphors by Andreas Hendrich. Andreas is a somewhat crazy guy from the other university in Munich (LMU). I am not quite sure what he actually does at LMU now, but he was sympathetic and was in Japan for a few years.

During the course, we first tried to give some definitions of different types of metaphors and similar narrative tools. During those 3.5 days we learned about:

  • Extracting and analyzing metaphors out of existing text (e.g. for the purpose of learning from them)
  • Finding suitable metaphors to argue about something
  • Using metaphors to translate abstract points into easily comprehensible arguments

It was really a nice experience doing it and due to the practical nature of it, it’s hard to share the results. You should probably due a course like this yourself. It is really amazing, how powerful the different forms of metaphors can be, if you choose the right ones for the audience.

One of my key learnings was that many metaphors can be too polarizing. This easily can kill your whole argument right from the beginning. If your audience does not like how you enter the room, you might have lost them already.

On the final day, we did a short presentation about the contents of the course. We of course showed off our new arsenal of metaphors: We pretended to be in a discussion panel of some famous people: Dr. Ctrl-C. Guttenberg, Koch-Mehrin, Edmund Stoiber, Harald Lesch and Marcel Reich-Ranicki. We started off with the baby in the cradle, moved on to the canons of speech and finally employed the rhetorical nuclear bomb.

We had great fun.