A New Metaphor for the New Year

Practice Group Report

We decided to start again with a new group metaphor for the new year, using a cut-down version of Caitlin Walker's Metaphors At Work process. This involved us working in two small groups to elicit - and develop, using clean questions - our individual metaphors for the kind of group we would like in 2009. 

The individual metaphors (some people had more than one) included:

  • a sponge, soaking up ideas
  • a virtual laboratory (inside one's head) where experiments can take place - with light coming in
  • foundations for learning
  • a perfect egg (duck egg blue) that's treasured
  • a moment of still followed by a flower blossoming
  • bees buzzing with energy; cross-pollination
  • a sports team
  • a play group, where we can be in the 'now'
  • a translucent, transparent bubble - with pose pink moments, clear yellow moments, expansive moments (clear of all colour) and bright green moments

Next, we worked together in our groups to come up with metaphors that we could all sign-up to...

Metaphor Map 1: TowerThis is a a tower of learning, made of building blocks. The three levels represent different levels of ability (to facilitate cleanly), and as people gain more knowledge, practice and experience, they move up the tower. People come in at different levels via the conveyor belts (on the right). They are then inside the building blocks. The figure on the left is me, supporting the tower. When people are nearer the top of the tower they may present different ideas to the group. The bubbles are energy going from the group to the outside world. And right at the top there are light bulbs on springs, representing new ideas and us being stretched.

Metaphor Map 2: Virtual LaboratoryThis is a funky virtual laboratory, inside someone's head. On a table (= support) is a perfect duck-egg blue egg. Inside the egg there a pink, yellow and green moments and there is a dove flying out of the egg which represents peace. Above the egg there's a sponge which is soaking up information and ideas from all around the laboratory and squeezing them into the egg. A flower is emerging from the egg (but another time, something different might emerge). Light comes into the laboratory through the eyes and energy / light radiates out from them. The little red marks (top left of head) are synapses, making connections. Although not in the picture, there are other tables in the laboratory with different things happening on them.

Metaphor Map 3: The Whole Group MetaphorAnd here is the final metaphor map - our way of combining all the ideas. The tower is also inside the virtual laboratory (head), and the bubbles of energy and questions are now coming from the mouth. During our meetings, the top of the head opens and all our thoughts come out. And now, as well as a head, there's a body (things happen inside the body as well as the head, and non verbals are important, too) - a rag doll kind of body, that stretches. And the body also has a heart.

What does all this mean for the group in practice? The tower represents different levels of learning and we had a discussion about how we can accommodate everyone's needs and the different roles people take. We came up with some ideas for his, which I plan to flesh out a bit before he next meeting - February 16 - when we will try them out in our virtual laboratory!

Thank you to everyone who attended the group.

PS: I have written the above descriptions of the individual, small group and large group metaphor from memory. If I have omitted, added or misrepresented anything, please let me know (via the comments box below or by email|).

Tags: caitlin walker, metaphor, practice group

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About the author

Marian Way

Company Director & Trainer, Portchester, Fareham
A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be... #DramaFree. Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She's trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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