Teaching analogies and metaphors to enhance communication in interdisciplinary and cross-functional groups

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Virginia Tech

In interdisciplinary and cross-functional groups and teams, members pool diverse perspectives for the purposes of new product design and innovation, but these different perspectives may cause interruptions in effective communication. This study examines the use of analogies and metaphors as effective communication tools in interdisciplinary group settings.

Analogies and metaphors are an important aspect of our cognitive activities. Communication using analogies and metaphors plays an important role in constructing our knowledge structures. In this study, an instructional tool with group activities has been designed and tested to teach the effective use of analogies and metaphors in interdisciplinary and cross-functional group and team settings. The tool was designed using theories of pedagogy and includes activities for group members. The instructional tool was tested in interdisciplinary group settings. The results from a mixed methods analysis of data the collected are presented as contributions to the research in group communication and analogies and metaphors. The study also identified characteristics of effective analogies that may be used as potential communication tools in interactions between members from different disciplines and functions.

Human factors, Interdisciplinary groups, Pedagogy, Communication, Metaphor