There are many articles that talk about the ‘war on talent’. What is meant by this is that organisations are vigorously competing for a limited supply of people with the relevant skills and experience. As it is a buyer’s market, with more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available, organisations engage in a bidding ‘war’ to outdo each other in this competition.
Is using the war metaphor useful to this discussion?
Is the war metaphor useful to discussing any issue?
Considering the role metaphor plays in influencing our thinking, I submit that the war metaphor is not only not useful, it is inappropriate and flawed.
A metaphor provides a way of thinking about a topic in terms of another topic that is more familiar. The metaphor directs our attention to focus on certain aspects of the topic and to ignore others. It encourages a way of thinking.
The war metaphor uses the language of battle – strategies, tactics, fight. This language moves us to think in terms of battle, and subtly, and at times not so subtly to behave in a way that fits with the battle. It fosters a competitive, combative attitude. The metaphor affects how we perceive ‘talent’.
How different our language and thinking would be if we referred to finding staff as ‘an adventure’, ‘a magnetic attraction’, ‘an expedition’.