So…what is the difference between an analogy and a metaphor?

I have noticed that analogies and metaphors are sometimes difficult to decipher for those wanting to include one or the other in a presentation, as a way of bringing key points to life. Below is a definition of both provided by my Mac’s dictionary application. An analogy is a tool you can use to explain a complicated or possibly foreign concept to an audience by comparing it with a common thing a general audience would have no trouble understanding. An analogy may be an ongoing thread the speaker weaves throughout his or her fabric (i.e., content) of the talk (oh, there’s a metaphor!). A metaphor on the other hand is a way of quickly describing what some thing is like; for example, sometimes I describe the act of human communication as a dance.

analogy |əˈnaləjē|
noun ( pl. analogies )
a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification: an analogy between the workings of nature and those of human societies | he interprets logical functions by analogy with machines.

metaphor |ˈmetəˌfôr, -fər|

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable: “I had fallen through a trapdoor of depression,” said Mark, who was fond of theatrical metaphors | her poetry depends on suggestion and metaphor.
a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, esp. something abstract: the amounts of money being lost by the company were enough to make it a metaphor for an industry that was teetering.

Below is a short article my colleague Claire Laughlin wrote where she writes about organizational life and likens it to a recipe. Can you identify whether it is an analogy or metaphor?

How do you perform when the heat is on?

It’s October, and along with the seasonal falling leaves and Halloween supplies on sale, farmer’s markets are delivering the fall harvest. This time of year, I make a lot of soup.

While standing at the stove a few days ago, I realized that organizational life is a lot like a pot of soup.

First, we can think of our team members like the soup ingredients. Different people bring different “flavors” and “qualities” to our work life. For example, hot chili peppers add a “zing” to a pot of soup, while walnut or sesame oil can add a “nutty” flavor that is irresistible! Think about your work team. Who adds that necessary zing? Who contributes a nuttiness that keeps everyone balanced and in good humor?

Further, like soup ingredients, some folks blend together easily, creating flavors that are better together than on their own. When we combine people with differing talents and abilities, we have the potential of creating unique “flavors” that are impossible to produce using only one ingredient at a time. At work, this is synergy, and it satisfies us.

Some of our team members will have greater impact on our work life then others. Like beets, when you add them to soup, they color everything. (This is great, if your recipe calls for beets, and not so great when it doesn’t.) If you are a leader, remember to add “the beets” to the projects where they are most useful and appreciated.

Some team members will bring out the best in others. Just like adding a touch of salt will enhance other ingredients in a pot of soup, these people are wonderful at pulling forth the best in others. They help to motivate us and keep us focused and working as a team.

Finally, remember the heat. Flavors can blend together wonderfully when heated properly. Some ingredients and recipes require searing heat while others emerge through a slow simmer. In our work life, the heat can be many things such as a deadline, or the introduction of a new competitor into your marketplace, or the implementation of a new system or procedure, or a product launch.

Remember that we need to prepare for heat. When making soup, for instance, we chop our root vegetables to uniform size for even cooking. Similarly, we need to prepare our team members for working under pressure. We need to make sure they have the right tools and support to excel.

We also need to know when to turn the heat off. Soup will burn if the heat is left on too long. Our teams will burn out if they do not have some reprieve from the heat. Remember to take time to cool off and rejuvenate after a “hot spell.”

In general, if you’d like your organizational life to blend together like a perfect pot of soup, keep these tips in mind…

  • Select the best ingredients. (Hire the best!)
  • Be clear about the recipe you are trying to create. (Keep your team oriented to the vision and goals of the current project and situation.)
  • Blend the right ingredients to create the outcome you want. (Pick the right people for the right jobs.)
  • Turn on the heat. (Help your team focus on achievable outcomes within reasonable time frames.)
  • Turn off the heat. (Refresh and rejuvenate after each deadline and project.)
  • Serve and celebrate. (Make sure to celebrate milestones, thank your team for their contributions and spread the word of work well done!)

And here is my favorite tip…

  • Share your recipe for success with others!