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Ness Labs: Make the most of your mind
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Building a latticework of mental models with the co-founder of ModelThinkers

by
Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Ness Labs
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Definition of Mental Models

  • Simplified representations, concepts, and frameworks that everyone uses to understand and act in the world

Four Distinct Categories of Mental Models

  • The invisible models: heuristics and cognitive biases that rule our decisions when our more conscious brain isn’t paying attention—which is almost all the time
    • E.g., confirmation bias, anchoring, sunk cost fallacy, etc.
  • The basic models: take for granted as we navigate through the routine of our existence
    • E.g., the mental representations we rely on when making a sandwich or finding our way to work
  • The contextual ones: developed through specialist study or cycles of personal experience and reflection to help us to act in our specific environment and/or domain or a personal lesson with limited transferability
    • E.g., how a radiologist interprets medical imaging, how to work with your current boss who tends to be moody on Tuesdays, etc.
  • The big ideas: powerful, repeatedly useful for many people, and highly applicable across varying contexts and domains
    • E.g., second order thinking, return on failure, the hero's journey, etc.

Where We Can Draw Mental Models From

  • History
    • E.g., Aristotle's Rhetoric
  • Latest tech trends
    • E.g., DevOps Mindset
  • Evidence-based studies
    • E.g., Temptation Bundling
  • Essentially anywhere and anytime as long as it will help our audience better understand their world and empower more effective action as a result

The "Latticework of Mental Models" Approach

  • Coined by Charlie Munger, VP of Berkshire Hathaway
  • Consciously build a latticework of useful mental models so that you can see any problem through a variety of lenses and perspectives
  • The choice and combination of models must be unique for each individual and context

Most Useful Mental Models

  • Pareto Principle a.k.a. 80:20 Rule
    • Be strategic about your time and resources
    • Apply it strategically 20% of the time
  • Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication (NVC)
    • A self awareness and communication process of starting with the facts or an observation
    • Then considering what feelings are invoked by that observation
    • Then digging below the feelings to the (un)met need
    • Before formulating a request that can address that need

Useful Strategies

  • Be compassionate with yourself and try not to get overwhelmed
  • Embrace compounding: consistently build on marginal gains
  • Go beyond the default models that you always, often unconsciously, use in difficult moments
  • Arm yourself with a cognitive toolkit, or playbook, for each situation
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