An orchard or a well oiled machine? Using metaphor in business development

Felicity Dwyer
5 min readFeb 21, 2021

When your business is exactly as you’d like it to be, it will be like what?

This question opens the door to using simile and metaphor as a way of understanding and communicating how you want your business to be.

A metaphor is when you describe something in terms of it being something else: “All the world’s a stage”. A simile describes something as being like something else: “my love is like a red red rose”. Simile and metaphor are often thought of as literary devices, but in reality, the use of metaphorical language go much deeper than that.

Many metaphors speak to an aspect of our human experience. For example, metaphors associated with positive states often reflect being higher, and negative states being lower. Think about what it’s like to be “on top of the world” versus “down in the dumps”. Compare the visceral experience of “floating on air” versus “wading through treacle”.

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Metaphors tell us something about our deeper understanding of the nature of things. They can help us understand ourselves better. And they can also help us in communication to bring more colour and depth to what we’re saying.

In particular, I want to think about how they might be useful in helping us think creatively about the nature of our businesses.

What do you want?

To discover and use metaphors that are right for your business, a helpful starting point is your desired outcome. What will your business be like, when it’s exactly how you want it to be?

Once you’ve come up with a metaphor that resonates, then you can explore it further? What light does this metaphor shed on your business? How can it help you develop your business in a positive way.

Metaphors for how you help your clients

What is the promise that your businesses makes to your clients or customers?

In my career coaching practice for example, I help people to navigate a career crossroads. Coaches sometimes use the metaphor of guiding people on a journey. Or how about a marketing consultant who shows people how to package their ideas?

Felicity Dwyer

Learning and Development specialist, Time to Think facilitator, Author “Crafting Connection: Transform how you communicate with yourself and others”.