Mar 212013

Tap into the power of metaphors to boost your creativity

Metaphor: jaws in space


I once heard that Ridley Scott pitched his idea for his movie “Alien” as “Jaws in space” (confirmed here). How brilliant is that?! With that simple 3-word metaphor, the director was able to convey his novel idea for a movie so precisely that it baffles the mind!

A metaphor is a soft thinking technique connecting two different universes of meaning. Examples: Food chain, flow of time, fiscal watchdog. The key to metaphorical thinking is similarity. The human mind tends to look for similarities.

Excessive logical thinking can stifle the creative process, so use metaphors as a way of thinking differently about something. Invent and look for metaphors in your thinking. They are also potent tools as they make you and your audience look at things a different way.

Imaging within another sensory or conceptual frame can help. For example, in the visual images of spring which inspired Vivaldi’s “La Primavera”, one can clearly re-imagine then while listening to that piece of music.

When thinking of a problem and its solution, it helps to expose the mind with many related concepts. The hope is that the juxtaposition of 2 or more of those concepts will create a eureka moment that will lead to a solution. It’s not always a perfect fit but by stretching and examining the parts of the connection, you can start discovering new facets of the imperfect metaphor to lead you to the perfect solution.

Flex your metaphorical thinking muscles

Coming up with metaphors might come naturally for some of us as our brains tend to think metaphorically in the first place.  However, it’s sometime difficult to force their creation. It’s more like “they come to you” and not “you go to them”. That’s where English majors have an edge. That said, you can become good at it with some practice.

Here are some interesting resources on how to create and make use of metaphors.

Do you like metaphors? Share your favorite one(s) in the comments section below this post.

  6 Responses to “Metaphorical thinking”

  1. I love metaphor. Am I a lost cause since I don’t see anyone else commenting on the topic

  2. I love metaphors as well. In fact all religions are based on mythological metaphors: The flood, Adam’s apple, Heaven and hell …etc. These metaphors exist in all cultures that are completely unrelated. We have the serpent telling Adam to eat the Apple story in Christianity /Judaism and in some polynesian cultures that never had any contact with either. Metaphors allowed the early humans to comprehend the unexplainable and make sense out of the mysteries they experience. Now the metaphors are not as explicit or relevant , but I still believe we need them just as our ancestor did.

    • Very eruditely put my friend! I love mythological metaphors too and I couldn’t help but notice that you listed Abrahamic symbolism in your list of mythological metaphors. Touché !
      Where are disagree with you is your assessment that metaphors are less relevant today. As the world become more and more complex and with our time becoming such a valuable commodity, being able to come up with the right metaphor to conjure up the perfect mental image in your interlocutor is becoming essential… like… a razor sharp beam of light to cut through a crowded stage of ideas.
      Advertisers/politicians have become masters at that sort of things where with a couple of words or images they can sell you their idea: orange juice is your daily ray of sunshine, Romney’s “women in binders”

  3. […] Shark + Spaceship: The movie Alien as suggested in the recent post: Metaphorical Thinking […]

  4. […] Shark + Spaceship: The movie Alien as suggested in the recent post: Metaphorical Thinking […]

  5. […] Shark + Spaceship: The movie Alien as suggested in the recent post: Metaphorical Thinking […]

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