Metaphoric Learning

One of the most effective ways to provide "learning that transforms," that is, which uses not only rational-cognitive part of the brain, but involves all of the participant's senses and emotions too, is to use an extended metaphor to drive the group experience. An extended metaphor which is not only "understood", but lived out in full with the body and the energy of all participants.

Hermes has been employing this tool for many years, using different languages and experiences:
corporate theatre, the exploration of voice and choir, action-painting, a visit to the Florentine workshops, Qigong, perfumes and essences, the exploration of gardens, jazz, cooking and rugby. Each individual experience must be original and unsettling. Capable of provoking universal thoughts on the concepts you want to explore. And aesthetically pleasing, in order to generate profound "feeling" in the participants.

The process closes with a debrief on the experience: the trainer helps your managers to focus thoughts, insights and qualities taken from the metaphorical experience, in order to pour those resources into your company and into each employee's personal reality. Transforming them into concrete lines of action. Unlocking energy and potential. Generating a greater sense of team. Overcoming fear and uncertainty and, once back in the workplace, reactivating a desire to "truly push oneself".

Below are just some of the formats available, but here at Hermes, we develop a custom journey and experiences for every single company, depending on each client's specific needs.




Improvisational theatre becomes the perfect metaphor for the ability of managers and professionals to adapt to continuous change in the settings in which they operate; for learning to move without fixed references, with the help and the creative synergy of others, enhancing the quality and specificity of all involved.

Improvisational theatre techniques are used which involve mind, body and emotions: in a sort of “total gym“ which trains participants to work on the here and now, to read contexts and readily adapt to situations, to improve communication with others.

This format reinforces:

Creativity, initiative and risk-taking
Collaborative spirit and mutual support
Spontaneity, intuition, imagination
Listening to others and integration
Empathy and openness to other people's emotions
Perception of others as a resource for ourselves and our team




Especially effective for encouraging participants to express and develop individual creativity and to channel that creativity into designing and implementing projects as a team.

Participants are helped to create a true work of art by teaching basic techniques of painting on canvas, led by our artist trainer, who is a painter and an expert in graphic arts. Participants start by creating an individual piece, the expression of their place as an individual in a team. They then develop and integrate that piece with the contributions of the entire group, with each individual painting becoming part of a collective piece. You can also take your “group piece” away as a celebration of you as a team and how you've grown together.

This format reinforces:

Team spirit and teamwork
Creativity and initiative
Collaborative spirit and mutual support
Negotiation and promoting our own ideas




By consciously listening to our bodies we can reconnect to the source of our physical and mental vitality, learning to perceive and regulate the flow of our internal energy. Using the techniques of Qigong, an ancient Chinese practice, we can find balance and physical and mental wellbeing, acquiring techniques that we can use in our daily lives.

Participants work on body posture, the diaphragm, breathing and internal balance, in order to release stress and muscular, emotional and mental tension. This process helps participants to place greater trust in themselves, as well as helping them to tap into their creativity and the energy required for personal transformation.

This format reinforces:

The ability to increase our own internal energy
The ability to manage and release work-related stress
Awareness of how we use our creative energy
Ability to focus
Physical and mental wellbeing at work and in our private lives




A visit to the Arts and Crafts Space, in Florence, transports participants into the fascinating world of making and creating, a chance to discover with their own eyes and hands the ancient techniques that have always been the pride of this city. Participants are introduced to the metaphor of the artisan as someone who, just like a leader should be, is committed to producing quality goods, valuing the materials he works with. Just as an artisan transforms an existing material into something unique, in the same way an “artisan boss“ knows how to enhance the talents of his or her team and develop their specific qualities.

After visiting several workshops (Florentine mosaic, crystal-cut glass, interior decoration, jewellery, restoration), participants put themselves to the test by creating a handmade item: binding a book, finishing a keychain, or creating a lamp. Or they can have a go at gold leaf gilding: a technique that requires great attention and care in handling the gold. The perfect metaphor for the talents that we must handle in every individual with whom we work.

This format reinforces:

Ability to perceive our own talents
Understanding our own leadership style
Focusing on the skills and talents of others
Ability to concrete our actions
Enhancing personal passion and discipline




A sensory experience that is deeply involving on an emotional level, starting from our sense of smell. Participants are immersed in “olfactory landscapes“ in which they experiment with high quality essences, discovering the seven functions of perfume: Sacredness, Elegance, Seduction, Pleasure, Vitality, Identity and Evasion.

Every scent generates different emotions, helping participants to establish “their own specific essence”: that is, the essence which activates their best qualities and internal resources. During the next phase, all participants work together to define and then create a perfume which represents “the essence of their team”. That is, an essence which generates wellbeing and activates positive emotions, generating new energy, positivity and propensity for team work.

This format reinforces:

Team spirit and teamwork
Sensitivity and connection with ourselves
Listening to others and integration
Ability to feel “the essence” of a group




A direct botanical garden experience, led by a landscape architect, is a time of learning and wonder for all participants. Participants learn about the logic of arranging and caring for plants: the landscape architect explains how each plant or flower needs a certain light, a certain amount of water, a certain plant next to it, but not another, as that could be harmful. And through this we discover how those who care for plants must demonstrate the same attention, sensitivity, patience and care as those who are responsible for company personnel every single day.

And those who must act as “gardeners“ for the development of others understand how important it is to become sensitive “cultivators of talent“: putting in place the right actions, at the right time, without trying to accelerate a process of growth that cannot be forced. But rather creating better ground for the growth of resources and individual potential.

This format reinforces:

Awareness of our role as talent “enhancers”
Perceiving the diversity of each individual
Ability to be flexible and manage colleagues in different ways
A manager's responsibility in putting each person in the “right” place for them




Leonard Bernstein argued that “the best way to know something is to learn it through the perspective of another discipline” . Jazz is an excellent example of the effectiveness of this approach. This format explores a musical genre based on improvisation and, at the same time, the study of common patterns, a shared language, a strong sense of group thought, group “feeling“, and truly working as a group. Endless creation of new solutions which involve and astonish the musicians themselves.

Just as a manager today must do, called upon to provide new answers, not based on what has already been done or learned: opening ourselves up to uncertainty, the flow of events, intuition, listening attentively to both our situation and to others, trusting everyone's contribution.

By listening to live music played by a jazz quintet, watching films, and participating in an impromptu improvisation experience using voices and instruments, participants experience what it means to listen, communicate and collaborate with others, and discover how to trust in their creative intuition, in making fast and irreversible decisions, with no guarantee regarding the end result.

This format reinforces:

Ability to listen
Sensitive communication
Ability to “feel” our group
Trusting our own intuition and creativity
The ability to manage uncertainty and turbulence




Rugby is a team game in which the specialisation of roles reflects the division of labour within an organisation: no team can achieve results and fulfill its goals without all of its components operating in a coordinated and synergistic manner; differentiation of roles in rugby promotes understanding of business roles and their integration to achieve results. This format is particularly effective in developing strong cohesion and team spirit in existing teams (for example: boss and co-workers) or between departments (for example: the leaders of your various networks), or to overcome conflict and division within a team.

Led by Italian Rugby Federation coaches and supported by a consultant, participants experiment with game situations and simulations of patterns on a real rugby field, alternated with classroom sessions in which the dynamics of the game are transposed on to managerial suggestions and ideas.

Achieving success, within one day, in being a true team playing a real game, in understanding the basic logic of the game thanks to the importance of communication, synergy of roles and mutual support, generates strong emotions in all participants, accompanied by a desire to replicate those behaviours in the workplace.

This format reinforces:

Ability to overcome conflict
Team spirit and sense of service
Awareness of our role within the team
Integrating our own role with those of others
Listening to others for success




Food is, by definition, a great metaphor of cultural values, attitudes and habits. And at the same time, a universal way of expressing one's own creativity. This is why cooking and eating together is a creative, total sensory experience.

In the presence of an executive chef carefully selected based on technical know-how but also his presentation and communication skills, your group can enjoy a range of difference experiences. They can: prepare a group dinner to experiment with teamwork (managing resources, time, tasks); put their creative talents to the test by inventing an innovative variation of a traditional dish, in line with their own intuition, sensitivities and imagination. The final tasting activities, led by the chef, become a basis for introducing the concepts of listening and attention, essential for working in synergy and communicating effectively with your team.

This format reinforces:

Team spirit and teamwork
Collaborative behaviours in respect of roles
Effective communication in order to provide mutual support
Ability to listen
Trusting our own creative resources




A highly effective experience for professionals and managers who want to learn how to bring out their talents harmoniously, integrating them with those of others to achieve greater success. This format also encourages reflection on leadership through the choirmaster figure.

Using the NLP model and specific vocal techniques, participants will explore “the hidden essence of voice” from a physical, creative and emotional point of view, activating their communication potential, through in-depth, intense work on “vocal gestures“. Guided by a trainer and a choirmaster, participants will learn the basic elements of the choir and how to integrate their voice with those of others.

This format reinforces:

Team spirit and teamwork
Perception of our own talents
Ability to listen to ourselves and others
Recognising leadership
Recognising the contribution of different roles in a group