I’m not a huge fan of analogies.
Sometimes they can be used to help to explain something, and sometimes they can work very well in this context.
Sometimes, however, they are used to back up an argument and this is very dodgy ground. All analogies have limits, and they more they are used, the more these limitations will be exposed. So I am always very dubious about an argument which claims that because such-and-such a thing will happen in the analogous situation, it will therefore happen in the real situation under discussion. I have been at many meetings over the years where analogies were used as weapons to back up a position. Here be dragons, in my opinion.
But they can help in explanations. And they can help in presentations.
I gave a presentation years ago where I tried to explain why you might use one technology to tackle one requirement while also using a different technology to tackle a different requirement. I used the analogy of having different gold clubs in your bag and there being situations where you need a 4-iron and other situations where you need a pitching wedge. I think that analogy worked quite well (although the danger with all analogies is that they may come across of patronising).
I was reminded of all of this yesterday when I was reading an article on the web which included one of the worse analogies I have ever seen (paired, by coincidence, with a golfing analogy).
Here is the piece in question:
Yes, these CRM systems are terrible. As terrible as an automatic rifle given to a child or a nine-iron handed to a monkey. But placed in the right hands, like a soldier or a professional golfer, a CRM system (like the popular ones listed above) can be a powerful tool for growing a company’s profits and increasing its value. So is your CRM system terrible? Or is it you?
The article was written by Gene Marks and appeared on the Forbes website. You can read it here.
Now I don’t have the slightest issue with the idea that a 9-iron in the hands of a great golfer can do marvelous things while the same implement in the hands of a monkey can have very different results.
But I do have an issue with the idea that an “automatic rifle” in the hands of a “soldier” could ever be compared with a system which might be “a powerful tool for growing a company’s profits and increasing its value”.
The best you could ever claim for an automatic rifle, in my opinion, is that it might be considered to be a necessary evil in some circumstances.
Having said all of that, I guess it is possible (although this seems like a stretch) that the author was referring (perhaps even unconsciously) to how often soldiers have been sent off in pursuit of objectives which had as much or more to do with profits and growth than with any higher objectives. Anyone who is familiar with Michael Moore’s documentary film “Fahrenheit 9/11” will be very familiar with this idea.