Analogies and metaphors give us clear pictures separated from reality and the complexities of detail. They enable us to step into an alternative world, play with it and then make the links to the current situation.
This is particularly helpful when the real situation is highly politicised, rife with conflict or discussion is seen as threatening. Metaphors help us distinguish the wood from the trees as we back up and see the big picture.
Stephen Berry's book 'Strategies of the Serengeti' describes a range of types of organisation using the metaphor of wild animals.
I use this as part of my toolkit with young managers who hold onto an illusion of 'the ideal company' and think their organisation could and should change rapidly to some textbook ideal. Once we work with an animal metaphor, it can be easier to accept reality and work out how to deal with it in concrete terms.
Sometimes hybrid animals emerge from the test and the idea of equal strengths in 2 areas.
The wild animal metaphor has enabled managers to broach delicate subjects with colleagues and make progress in key areas to improve organisational health.
One of my clients was dismayed to realise that the organisation resembled a lame wildebeest, which ran the risk of being picked off by a cheetah, lion or hyena. Presented with this startling picture, colleagues were more willing to discuss an overhaul of strategic direction and marketing.
Take the test at his site to discover which animal your organisation most closely resembles.