The secret to clear thinking and decision-making is to learn, invent, and adopt mental models.
You’ve probably noticed effective leaders can frame complex ideas simply. They’ll lead conversations like this:
“Well, I think there are three things we should focus on, not 15, and they are…”
“Folks, I think there’s another way of looking at this problem. What if we viewed the problem through these four lenses…”
The key to simplifying the complex like this is to be conscious of the concept of Mental Models. I blundered through a large part of my career not being overtly conscious of the concept. Once a mentor coached me on utilizing them intentionally, I quickly became more effective in driving debate and getting people and organizations aligned.
“A mental model is an explanation of how something works. It is a concept, framework, or worldview that you carry around in your mind to help you interpret the world and understand the relationship between things. Mental models are deeply held beliefs about how the world works.”James Clear
There’s no shortage of good Internet content on Mental Models. I encourage you to search yourself, but as I sat down to write this tip, I immediately found this post which is a solid (if a bit academic) primer. This post is also good.
You can invent your own Mental Models. For example, I developed a Mental Model that has helped me navigate building technology products at scale. I call it CBTO. It provides a great way to reason about the work we do every day to build and sell fantastic products. See my primer on CBTO here.
Learn and practice skills for being conscious and thoughtful about the mental models you use. An example of such a skill? Get good at writing your Mental Models down on paper (or blog posts) such that others can understand and adopt them.
What are some of your favorite Mental Models? How are you going to apply them next time you’re debating a topic with a colleague? Comment below.
These posts discuss some of my go-to mental models:
- Merit Badges – A Mental Model for Success
- The Job Decision Matrix
- You are Thinking of Your Career Trajectory Wrong
- Customer, Business, Technology, Organization (CBTO)
- D x V x F > R
- One-Way and Two-Way Doors
- The 5Ps: Achieving Focus in Any Endeavor
- Attention is the Currency of Leadership
- Taxonomy and Lexicon
- Path To Green
- Virtuous Cycles, Platforms, Flywheels, Snowballs, and Tidal Waves
I am available to do 1:1 or group coaching on all of these topics. Go here to learn more: Advising, Coaching, and Consulting