Stop Using "War" Metaphors In Business

🔖 business culture tech

War metaphors have been used in business for decades.1 From “marketing warfare” to “competitive strategy,” the language of war permeates the way we talk about business. However, it’s time to recognize the negative impact that these metaphors can have and to move away from them.

Using war metaphors in business can create a hostile and competitive environment. It encourages an “us vs. them” mentality, where competitors are seen as enemies to be defeated. This mindset can lead to unethical behavior, such as sabotage or spreading false information about competitors. It can also create a culture of fear and mistrust within organizations, where employees are pitted against each other in a battle for supremacy.

It can also lead to seeing others within your company as enemies if they don’t share similar beliefs or if you feel that they are not “doing their part” to succeed.

Furthermore, war metaphors in business can be exclusionary and insensitive. They trivialize the horrors of war and the experiences of those who have lived through it. Using phrases like “marketing warfare” or “sales blitz” can be particularly insensitive to those who have experienced the trauma of actual war. This can create a culture where the value of human life is diminished and where empathy and compassion are undervalued.

There are also practical reasons to move away from war metaphors in business. They can limit creativity and innovation, as they encourage a narrow focus on defeating the competition rather than on creating value for customers. They can also limit collaboration and cooperation between organizations, as they create an environment where partnerships are seen as weaknesses rather than strengths.

One option is to use nature metaphors, such as “planting seeds” to represent the growth of an idea, or “nurturing” a project to success. These metaphors promote the idea of growth and development, while also emphasizing the importance of care and attention in the process.

Another option is to use creative and playful language that encourages imagination and innovation. For example, using phrases like “let’s brainstorm” or “let’s imagine” can help to create a more open and collaborative environment where everyone’s ideas are welcome.

Ultimately, the language we use in business should reflect our values and promote positive behavior. By moving away from war and sports metaphors, we can create a more inclusive and collaborative environment that emphasizes creativity, empathy, and innovation.

  1. Lusch, Robert F., and Thomas W. Garsombke. “Military Marketing Warfare: A Comparative Review of the Use of Combative Philosophies and Terminology.” Journal of Marketing, vol. 51, no. 1, Jan. 1987, pp. 135–37. EBSCOhost,