Towards supply chains in a flourishing world. Enter, metaphor.

Victoria Stephens

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    Sustainability demands innovation, urgency and new ways of thinking. Ehrenfeld (2008, p.28) suggests that “acting according to prevalent norms is a root cause of unsustainability and it will take a strong dose of unreasonableness to break the logjam of conventional thinking [italics added]”. This paper overtly adopts a cognitive perspective on metaphor to suggest that metaphors play a multi-faceted and significant role in shaping and constraining what is literally (un) reason-able in SSC scholarship. It combines two complementary cognitive theories of metaphor. Conceptual Metaphor Theory (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Lakoff and Johnson, 1999) suggests that humans reason through metaphor. The embodied world acts as a key reference point by which we make sense of abstract concepts. As these metaphors become normalised, we (as individuals, organisations, or societies) become ‘trapped’ into certain ways of thinking (Morgan, 2006). Meanwhile, Conceptual Blending theory highlights the creative new insight that is generated as scholars encounter (individually or collectively) metaphors (Cornelissen et al., 2005), which can lead to potentially powerful new hypotheses and propositions (Weick, 1989). From this multi-theoretic perspective, I first illustrate the application and findings of a systematic metaphor analysis procedure as a novel approach by which to expose the metaphoric roots of SSC reasoning (Andriessen and Gubbins, 2009). If we don’t recognise them as metaphors then we can’t activate their metaphoric potential. Secondly, I illustrate the creativity that emerges from scholars’ metaphoric encounters. I thus propose that a conscious reflection on and activation of metaphors in SC scholarship can leverage the chance to ‘break the logjam of conventional thinking’ (Ehrenfeld, 2008) to stimulate (normative?) theory towards supply chains-in a flourishing world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
    EventEurOMA Sustainable Operations and Supply Chains Forum: Sustainability as Flourishing - University of Nottingham, Nottingham
    Duration: 10 Feb 202011 Feb 2020


    ConferenceEurOMA Sustainable Operations and Supply Chains Forum
    Abbreviated titleEurOMA SOSCF


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