Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


Avoid the Iceberg - why some metaphors just don't help

Tuesday 18 August 2015

If you've been to a few training programs in your day there is a fair chance you've seen the 'Iceberg' image used in an attempt to explain something along the lines of 'how much goes unseen compared to how much we see'. It's used so often that it's almost a cliche. It's also fundamentally WRONG

The Iceberg metaphor image is so popular that not only is it now a cliche for 'you're missing the bigger picture', it also ensures that the CONTENT of your slide will get lost into the ether of every other training program that uses it. So it is nigh on useless for getting a specific message across to a wider audience. But it's real problem is waaaay B I G G E R.

Icebergs are by and large FRESH Water. They are also containers of a lot of trapped air.  And because of that air and because fresh water has LESS density than salt water, they float. Okay so far, so good. But now we come to why the Iceberg Metaphor doesn't stack up: When the iceberg begins to melt through fractionally warmer ocean water, air and sunlight, the physical shape of the iceberg changes. And when it changes its centre of gravity also changes and IT ROTATES! - Often parts of the iceberg that were below the water rotate upwards exposing them to the air, and parts that were in full view, disappear below the water. Icebergs flip ALL the time.

So, using that Iceberg Metaphor is telling people 'if you just wait a while, ALL WILL BE REVEALED'. The Iceberg metaphor defeats the exact reason you use it - to suggest that alot is hidden below the surface you just never see. If you don't believe me, just you wait ;-)


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