Metaphor and Belief, 2 frameworks to found creativity

2 great articles have recently drawn my attention regarding innnovation:

  • the first one is from Ikijiro Nonaka and is called “the knowledge creating company”; originally edited in 1991 in HBR, it tackles the subject of tacit knowledge, also sometimes called know-how, and “the valuable and highly subjective insights and intuitions that are difficult to capture and share because people carry them in their heads”. Knowledge circulation is the cornerstone of innovation, and “successful companies are those who create continuously new knowledge”. Nonaka explains how to “distill objective and transferable, or “explicit,” knowledge from tacit knowledge—with a vivid illustration of Matsushita Electric’s efforts to build a better bread-making machine—both arresting and actionable”. Exploring the secret of successful Japanese companies and their unique approach to managing the creation of new knowledge, he sets up  a 3 pillars model for innovation: metaphor, analogy, and model. Metaphor is intuitive, it’s a symbol which drives imagination and starts creative processus, analogy is the next step which clarifies distinctions and solves unconsistency, model is the last step, it is logical, immeditalely understandable, and integrates all concepts previously created. Thus the metaphor “Theory of Automobile Evolution”, showed up to be “a meaningful design concept for a new car, and led to the creation of the Honda City, Honda’s innovative urban car”. And yes, “the beer can be a useful analogy for a personal copier: just such an analogy caused a fundamental breakthrough in the design of Canon’s revolutionary minicopier, a product that created the personal copier market and has led Canon’s successful migration from its stagnating camera business to the more lucrative field of office automation”.
  • the second one is actually not an article, it’s a video from Simon Sinek, “How  great leaders inspire action” (2010, May) at Ted. Sinek analyzes that leaders communicate exactly the opposite way than anyone else: every organization starts from the what (what is the product?), move to the how (how it differentiates? usp, proprietary processus, …), and ends to the why (why you do it? your purpose, your cause, your belief). But “people don’t buy your products because of what they do”.
    People don’t buy a computer or mp3 player from Apple, they buy difference (“Think different!”). Apple doesn’t say: “we make great computers, they are beautifully designed, and user friendly, do you want to buy one?” It’s the other way round, and Apple is a leader because it starts its communication from why they actually design their products, and reverse the information: “everything we do, we believe it is challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully design, and user friendly, we just happen to make computers, do you want to buy one?” People dont’ buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. Sinek also speaks of the “I have a dream” speech, which by the way was not called the “I have a plan” speech … Those who lead inspire us.

So I asked myself, do I know what are the metaphor, analogy, and model, and what is my belief, corresponding to the current creative project I’m leading on Television? It’s called SoTV, services on TV, and it’s about mixing TV experience with Internet content and services, on your flat screen, and  across your other devices, mobile, tablet, PC.

Let’s give it a try:

  • Our belief is in openness: we’re not looking for Internet as a TV susbtitution, or Internet fighting against TV business model. We believe in culture mix, a blend of culture, a cross-fertilization between TV world and Internet world, a design where Internet can enhance the TV experience, providing more information, content, and immersion and where TV can drive Internet usage, multitasking on social networks, browsing linked e-commerce propositions, exploring new areas (surprise me!).
  • The metaphor is  quite simple, though I’m not good at drawing, it would be something like an open box or a pop up book: previously closed, it is now open to the surrounding connected world.

  • The analogy for us is in the interaction design challenge, and how the design can change the use of your TV devices and support consistent cross-devices services. The succesful reference is Apple with its iPhone user interface.
  • The model has to combine unlimited content and services coming from the Internet with over 70 years of TV usage and behaviour, to match collective usage with individual profile requiring bespoke content. We’ve established 3 principles: progressive engagement, related content, and connected experiences.

Applying the above methodologies to SoTV has clearly renewed its strength, and the claim  we used previously “SoTV is smart, it’s connected and immersive” sounds much less compelling that our genuine belief in openness: openness is why we did it, we wanted to share it and leave it with you as an inspiring gift.


Kujiro Nonaka is a professor, emeritus, of international business strategy at Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, in Tokyo. He is the coauthor, with Hirotaka Takeuchi, of The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation (Oxford University Press, 1995).

Simon O. Sinek (born 1973) is a marketing consultant known for developing “The Golden Circle,” a model based on human decision-making that guides organizations on how to inspire people to buy or support any product, company or idea.


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