How the Tangram Became Our Metaphor for Transformation

We were blown away – so simple and yet so . . . perfect!

When we began working with Neos Marketing, we posed a simple request – is there a way to demonstrate “transformation”, either visually or physically? Neos took up the challenge. And the result was brilliant!

First – a brief definition for transformation (from Webster’s Dictionary):

transform, v.

Etymology: < Latin transformāre, < trans- prefix + formāre to form, < forma form. Compare French transformer (14th cent. in Godefroy Compl.), also Old French tresformer

1. a. trans. To change the form of; to change into another shape or form; to metamorphose.

b. transf. To change in character or condition; to alter in function or nature.

2. intr. To undergo a change of form or nature; to change.

1. The action of transforming or fact of being transformed.

– a. The action of changing in form, shape, or appearance; metamorphosis.

– b. A changed form; a person or thing transformed.

2. transf. A complete change in character, condition, etc.

So how we can show people a visual representation of that? By using a metaphor.

Metaphor for Transformation

When we speak about organizational transformation, which is the bread and butter of our practice, we are using the definition:

“To change in character or condition; to alter in function or nature.”

We have been fortunate as a firm to have worked with many organizations over the past thirty years with their transformational efforts. Any organization wanting to “transform” is really wanting to realize a complete change in their character, condition, etc.

A few examples, expressed in the client’s words:

  • “from a declining business in a declining market, to a growing business winning in the marketplace”
  • “from a product centric business, to a customer centric business”
  • “from a business struggling to survive, to a darling of Wall Street”

As you can see from these simple expressions, the organizations pursuing their transformation were not interested in incremental improvements, which definitely have their place in any successful business. The transformational aspect for these organizations represented significant changes, in order to deliver a step change in performance. These were big changes, and big deal changes. As KingChapman’s tag line suggests:

Big Growth Requires Big Change

Big Change Demands Big Leadership

So, our request to our partners at Neos Marketing was with this understanding of transformation in mind.

When Neos came up with the idea of tangrams, to be honest, I had to look the word up before I knew what they were talking about!

What is a Tangram?

The tangram is a dissection puzzle consisting of seven flat shapes, called tans, which are put together to form shapes. The objective of the puzzle is to form a specific shape (given only an outline or silhouette) using all seven pieces, which may not overlap. It is believed to have been invented in China and carried over to Europe by trading ships in the early 19th century. A Chinese psychologist has termed the tangram “the earliest psychological test in the world”, albeit one made for entertainment rather than for analysis.

This is an example:


Why were we so excited with this idea?

We at KingChapman believe in the people inside our client organizations, because we have seen for decades how much people can do if they are given the right mix of best practices and expertise that we bring to our clients. We have seen people achieve amazing results, make great changes in the approaches to their businesses, think about themselves and their companies in new and different ways – all in the pursuit of making the transformation happen in their organizations.

So just like the tangram can change into different shapes, so too can organizations make major changes happen that add material value to themselves, their owners, their employees, their communities and their customers.

Same components + different shape = a transformation

Part of our ‘secret sauce’ in working with organizations that are engaged in a transformational effort is making certain that leaders in the organization are also transforming in the process. As our tagline above says, ‘big change demands big leadership’ in any transformational effort.

How do the leaders change? They grow / expand / develop their leadership capabilities and competencies.

And why do they do this? Because this is what it takes for any organization to truly transform – everyone in the company must transform as well, starting with the leaders of the organization.

Our many thanks to the team at Neos Marketing. This tangram idea is a brilliant demonstration of what KingChapman is all about – transformation of organizations to drive big time gains in value.


Another way to drive transformation in organizations is through a ‘breakthrough project’.  To learn more about how to implement this in your organization, download our white paper, “7 Elements for Chartering a Breakthrough Project”.

In it you will learn:

  • what a ‘Breakthrough Project’ is and why it’s critical to organizational transformation
  • why creating a ‘charter’ is a critical step in the process
  • the critical roles that key people must play in the project to enhance success

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