digital butterfly piccture to illustrate "butterfly metaphor"

The Butterfly Metaphor

The Butterfly Metaphor

For diversity to increase, a change in mindset has to happen. But how does change happen, how does it work exactly? And what do butterflies have to do with it?

Wait a Minute…

While reading a book about neuro-sensitivity in a business context, I came across something that made me stop in my tracks and start realizing how similar the challenge is for diversity (in tech) and the processes involved in becoming a butterfly. And with all the associations the visualization of a butterfly has, who would have thought it will offer such a nice metaphor of what we need in order to increase diversity! But let me take a step back so you can see what exactly I’m talking about and how the butterfly actually fits in the whole equation.

An Idea Takes Root

The above-mentioned book by Dr. Patrice Wyrsch talks about his scientific findings answering the question about neuro-sensitivity in a business context, a highly up-and-coming field of research that could make a huge difference in placing people with special traits in the right position. Especially when we’re talking leadership or innovator roles. While pointing out the special traits of so called “vantage-sensitive” persons and what makes them especially adequate for a leadership or innovator role, it also goes on pointing out that a mindset change will have to happen, as decisions in business are still done in a… let’s call it “more traditional” way, albeit an outdated one.

With the not-just-digital transformation that has been going on for years and that has gotten a big fat kick in the you-know-what by COVID, this outdated practice of wrongly favoring leaders with less adequate traits just isn’t going to fly in the context of the New Work practice, the individual’s search for meaningful work/life content and finding innovative solutions to stay relevant in the future. So, a kind of revolution has to happen, change is needed. And that is when the butterfly enters the stage!

Enters the Butterfly

In his interim summary, Patrice told readers about this actually science-derived metaphor of the butterfly and the fight of its cells while morphing from caterpillar to butterfly.
American biologist and author Norie Huddle scientifically researched what biological processes a metamorphosis in the case of a caterpillar entail. After cocooning, two processes start simultaneously:


Enzymes start degrading the caterpillars cells, basically “dissolving” it.


New cells are created that are completely different from the caterpillar’s existing (or shall we say vanishing) ones.

The new kind of cells will define the new look and functioning of what is to be a butterfly. Scientists call these cells “imaginative”, since they start off as disks kind of working towards a vision, as I would put it.

These cells are called “imaginal cells”. Not recognizing the newcomers, the immune system of the caterpillar snuffs the disks as they arise, as the caterpillar tries to resist the butterfly. But the imaginal disks keep coming faster and faster. They link up with each other, basically building networks.

Eventually the caterpillar’s immune system fails from the stress and the disks become imaginal cells, which build the butterfly by feeding on the soupy meltdown of the degraded caterpillar. Don’t go thinking that the imaginal cells are evil!

They are in fact making something beautiful (process 2) of what was going to end up in a yucky mess anyway (process 1).

Here Comes the Bridge!

So let’s help you with bridging this thing to diversity. Some of the reasons diversity is important for a business are the more diverse ideas that come along with diverse team members and the higher success rate both for your team in general as well as in product developing or revenue topics.

So I feel comfortable in stating that diversity is going to be one of the important factors for any company to stay relevant in the future. Having set that as the desirable future for any company, here’s some statements that help driving the point home for you:

digital butterfly piccture to illustrate "butterfly metaphor"

Change cannot be forced from outside, it needs two internal processes (degrading of the caterpillar, while building up the butterfly).

digital butterfly piccture to illustrate "butterfly metaphor"

Diversity will help you produce more customer-centric solutions independent of your target group’s gender, background, culture or race, etc. because you’ll cover more of it within your team and can more easily emphasize with your target group. You’ll be missing your very own “imaginal cells”.

digital butterfly piccture to illustrate "butterfly metaphor"

If your team or your company doesn’t embrace diversity, you are and will stay a caterpillar while you could be a butterfly.

digital butterfly piccture to illustrate "butterfly metaphor"

If your team or company is in fact a butterfly, you’ll be going places a caterpillar can’t.

digital butterfly piccture to illustrate "butterfly metaphor"

Change happens from within by building networks and helping each other, as the imaginal cells demonstrate. Embrace change, speak up, mentor and don’t get disheartened in the face of adversity.

Let the Butterfly Spread Its Wings

Yes. Let’s! Take your place in advancing diversity. It shouldn’t be something we even need to talk about, it should happen naturally. But it doesn’t, so let’s talk and then do something.

As the metaphor of the butterfly shows quite well, change needs to happen from within and cannot be pushed solely from the outside. You have friends, family, right? Are you taking an active role in making diversity a natural happening? And you work somewhere, right? Did you ever speak up, when you saw any form of discrimination, heard a joke about a co-worker’s gender or somebody being excluded? I sure like to think so. And as stated above, your team and company will benefit in so many ways, that embracing diversity is a real no-brainer.

If you would like to do more for diversity in tech but are not quite sure how, do feel free to hit any of the We Shape Tech board members up and we will provide ideas and guidance.
Let’s spread our wings!


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