Event Date: 03/25/2015 (2:00 pm EDT - 3:00 pm EDT)
SARAH SHAFER: Mental Models: The Key to Making Reality-Based Decisions, hosted by HRDQU, and presented by Diana Durek. Today’s webinar will last around one hour. If you have any questions you can always type them into the chat box. We will be answering questions as they come in live at the end of the presentation or as a follow-up by email. My name is Sarah Shafer and I will moderate today’s webinar.Diana Durek is a leadership-development specialist with an emphasis on emotional intelligence and personal change. She spent 11 years with a leading global psychological test publisher. There she worked with clients as diverse as the U.S. Air Force, American Express, and Air Canada. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in corporate learning and development, a joint program between the graduate School of Education and the Warren School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.Welcome, and thank you for joining us today.
DIANA: Thank you, Sarah, and welcome to everybody on the call. And also once again a big, warm thank you to my friends at HRDQU. So, I’m going to jump right in because we have quite a bit of material to cover. So you see on your slide there, I have the objectives listed, and let me start by saying, that my aim in the hour is to introduce you to mental models in as comprehensive a way as possible, I mean obviously in the time that we have. So to this end, you’re going to find that I have included some slides, not because I want to talk about all of them here, but because I want you to have them as reference material for your work, and I’m going to point these out throughout our hour together.
So let’s dive in. I’d like to invite you to use the chat function and answer the question that’s on your screen, “What do you expect this webinar to be like?” So let’s look at some of your responses. So they’re pouring in, and I’m sorry if I don’t get to yours, but, like I said, we have a lot to cover. I just want to give you some idea of the responses. So we have thought provoking, informative, challenge our own thinking, forthcoming with information that I can apply. And I, by the way, really hope to get to that. Assist in making decisions on the real situation, not sure, interactive as much as possible, and I will try to do that. Defining identifying mental models in the workplace, interactive, no clue as to content, well then I applaud you for coming on to this call. Don’t know what to expect. Expect to learn something new. Cover mental models, challenge thinking. OK, so we have an idea of sort of the depth and breadth of the responses. So my question for you is why are your answers not all the same? And it’s because, in a very simplistic way of answering this question is because each of you has a mental model of what this event will be like. So specifically you have an idea of what you think webinars are like, a number of you said interactive, and I would submit to you that years ago people would define webinars in many ways, but they certainly wouldn’t have said that they were interactive per se. But you also may have mental models about what mental models are and you might even have a mental model on what you think a presentation on mental models should be.
So I want to get into a definition so that we all get on the same page, and I’ll start with two. Peter Senge is the author of Fifth Discipline, for those of you new to mental models if you really want to start in a very comprehensive but very usable way, I suggest that you start by reading the Fifth Discipline. Peter Senge is also the founder of Society for Organizational Learning. Now he defines mental models as deeply held internal images of how the world works. We have another definition from Donald Norman, he’s the director of the Design Lab at the University of California at San Diego. He defines mental models as organized knowledge frameworks that allow individuals to describe, explain and predict behavior. So for our purposes, we will distill these and all the other definitions that are out there to your perception of reality about how something works in the real world.
Now there are two key elements that fall from this definition. First, mental models are a set of fundamental assumptions. Now you’re going to hear assumption many, many times today. It’s really key to what we’re talking about with mental models. And second, people exhibit consistent, predictable behaviors that are based on these assumptions. Now, we use mental models because they help us organize information and make it easier to make decisions. So for example, very simply, once we see a dog, and we see this even in young children, once we see a dog, we recognize all dogs. Now like I just said, mental models resolve into predictable behaviors, decisions and actions. So, if, for example, our mental model about our typical customers is if they’re sensitive to price, we can then predict how they will respond to a sale, right? Now if the mental model is that customers value high quality, then they’re not going to respond in the same way to a price reduction. So mental models eliminate internal confusion and truly they can do wonders to simplify a complicated strategy. And we can use this to our advantage when we’re doing things such as let’s say working to unite our team behind a single focus. So that’s really awesome. But the challenge is if there is really significant drawbacks to mental models as well.
So for starters, they’re not usually 100 percent accurate, and they often have a tendency to contain contradictions. So you kind of think to yourself, well, how can this be? How can they contain contradictions? It’s because people will continue to use mental models even if the models are incorrect. And it’s because these models are usually vague enough that they actually allow for this. So, for example, when you look at this hand over the stove, most people’s mental models will suggest that the hand will burn, right? But what if it’s an induction cooktop that actually doesn’t heat up? So the mental model does not account for the possibility of induction.
So, let’s practice this together. What I’d like you to do is consider the pros and cons of having a mental model for driving a car. So let’s compare a new driver who does not have a mental model for driving to an experienced driver who has developed a mental model of driving. So, if you would, write down for me what you think the pros and cons are of having this mental model. And again I will give you a minute for that. Alright, so we have defensive driving, pros the new driver will pay close attention to actions, absolutely, ability to drive defensively, single perception, getting from point A to B versus naivety, experienced driver knows to look all around them, they know to look for danger, have a good idea how to drive most cars, pros, saves time, allows me to predict other behavior. I see whose model, the novice or the expert? I’m not actually sure what that means. Now we have fear versus confidence, awareness, automatically will know how to maneuver the car, experienced will not be as alert because they think that they know it all.
So you see that the general pattern here is that on the pros side, the mental model allows the driver to drive without thinking about every single piece of information in the environment. That’s a good thing because this has a tendency to paralyze new drivers. So, think of new drivers, they can’t drive with the radio on, they tend not be able to hold conversations, and frankly you don’t want them to be holding conversations while they’re actually learning to drive. Now on the con side, an ingrained mental model could potentially cause a driver, and one of you said this beautifully, could ignore a cue that doesn’t fit into their mental model. So let me go out on not so much a limb, but stray a little from what I just read to you from your responses. Let’s say that an experienced driver has a rental car. And this particular car doesn’t have as much pick up as their own car. Because they’re not paying attention to these types of cues, when they try to gun that car to pass another car, it might not have the power they expect, and they could potentially risk an accident.
And one of you summed it up really well when you said you’re just not paying attention to cues as much when you’re experienced. So you can see right off the bat that there are powerful pros to mental models, but certainly also some cons.
So just for a second, I want to take a step back and look at where mental models come from. So first we have the influence of others. Now, I don’t need to tell you this. I’m sure you know this. We’re hugely influenced by others, not only as we grow up and in school, but also as adults. Now teachers of course are a primary influence, but as are things like books and let’s say math culture. Now, mental models also come from personal experience. So, for example, how we have coped with our mistakes in the past affects how we approach subsequent challenges. When faced with a difficult situation, some people tend to be crushed and limited in their responses while others have a tendency to respond with persistence and determination. And then we have rewards and incentives. Our mental models and subsequent actions clearly are shaped by the rewards we receive for holding them. I think this makes sense. Now they can be tangible such as monetary gain, but they can also be intangible such as social approval. Now these of course are just some examples, so to explore more fully this idea, I’d like to move to the next exercise.
Once again, I invite your responses, although at this point I don’t think I need to invite you, because I just see continuous comments streaming in. I’d like you to answer the following question for me: What does money mean to you? Alright, I know you’re still writing, but I will start reading so we don’t lose time. So we have security, freedom, power, comfort, I see some patterns, happiness, means to an end, sense of value, I’m not going to say it again, but eyeballing quickly every third one is security. Vacation, there’s a new one, freedom, options, pay bills, safety, health future, good life, stability, happy owners, happy stuff, new shoes, survival, choices, options, peace of mind, livelihood, and I’ll end with less stress. I have adapted this from Garreth Morgan’s work. This technique is extremely helpful in reminding us to look at events or situations from more than one perspective, with the deep understanding that multiple perspectives can and do exist at any given one time. Now something you can do to adapt this in your workplace obviously instead of putting money at the center, put your business issue in the center and keep asking what is it? So, for example, let’s say your business challenge is low sales, so look at it as perhaps it’s an efficiency issue or maybe you don’t have enough marketing collateral. Is it the case that the client load for your sales reps is too high? Is there a type of client that is disproportionately draining your resources? Is it a training problem? Now if it’s a training problem, what kind of training is required? Are there competing things being incentivized that are leading to poor performance? Is it a problem of leadership? Do you need more staff? You can also see that people from different departments, so L and D, sales, publishing, marketing, HR, all these people are going to view this challenge from different lenses which leads to potential for greater insight regarding the multiple perspectives.
So let’s dive into some examples of how different mental models but within the same industry has produced dramatically different results. So I’ll start with publishing, which is an industry that I know well. Amazon responded to the introduction of ebooks by developing and promoting the Kindle. I’m sure many of you have one. Borders on the other hand was slow to embrace electronic books. Their mental model was that reading requires a physical book. So at first, Borders outsourced their ebook sales to Amazon, and long story short, they ended up having to close in 2011 and selling their trademarks and customer lists to rival Barnes and Noble.
I’ll take another industry: insurance. The traditional mental model was that high customer satisfaction requires personal service from a local insurance agent. So, think of companies like Allstate. Then you had companies like Progressive Insurance and they started to employ a newer mental model which centered on making high levels of customer satisfaction achievable but online and frankly at a much lower cost.
So now I’m looking at a group of companies that have changed their core products. So Nintendo actually started out in 1889 with playing cards and they moved to video games. Tiffany, we can go as far back as 1837, Tiffany was a stationery store. Now you likely know that they sell higher quality jewelry. Xerox sold photography paper under the name Halloid until 1961. Today they offer copy machines and a full range of document management systems. LG, they were a chemical and industrial company in South Korea, and they quickly moved to hygiene and cosmetic products in 1947, but today they offer electronics, so, flat screen TVs, cell phones and the like. GAP, in 1969 GAP was a record store that happened to sell jeans, now it sells jeans and all kinds of apparel. And the last one on this slide, Intel Corp., they offered memory chips for computers, as early as 1969, and now they offer semi-conductor chips for personal computers. So the important takeaway here is that successful companies constantly assess their mental models so these are their models about how they do business, who their customers or potential customers are, and the very nature of their industry. And then they take all of that information and they adjust their mental models in order to remain competitive.
So let’s practice adjusting our mental models. Now just looking at the group of you today, we obviously represent so many disparate industries on this call, so, I thought instead of choosing an industry, I would choose something entirely different. So I would like for you all to think about public libraries. Now think about what mental models people likely possessed of them 20 or even 10 years ago. And again I invite you to submit some answers. So I see books, be quiet, hard-cover books, source of knowledge, research, card catalogues, a lot of quiets, a very common response here. One said book Vegas, but I’m not entirely sure what that means. Hands on, studies, stuffy, uncomfortable seating, pay a fine for returning late, good for you, structure, furniture, reference, you hit the jackpot, checking out books. So, we get the idea and actually, I’m going to add one. I know I’m going to be dating myself here, but I can also remember the library as a place where people went to use the internet for free before we actually had computers at home.
So, now what I’d like you to do, is think about how you see a library today. Let’s look at the differences between what we used to think of libraries or what people used to think of libraries and how we look at them now. Children’s activities, modern resources, coffee shops, place to hang out, ebooks, struggling for funding, kids learning area, digital, high tech, CD book, no longer used, people don’t go anymore, absolutely. I mean this is one of the key things. We have so many options for where we might actually get our books, so in fact libraries have become something, they need to add a different type of value other than just offering books. And I noticed that somebody wrote here Google, gathering place. My own library, not only do they have things like Meet the Author, but not a word of a lie, I just saw a note the other day that actually says they’re having a wine-tasting event. Now as far as I can tell, it’s not a wine-tasting event attached to the book club, it’s just a wine-tasting event. So we can see that clearly mental models do get adjusted. By the way, how you can apply this particular exercise in your workplace? Get your team together and ask them to write down the mental models that they hold about your workplace and/or your team or work group or whatever the case may be. And have people share their beliefs and particularly pay attention to both similarities and differences and pull together all of these insights and this type of a process will go a long way in helping to avoid unnecessary mistakes and conflicts.
So we want to examine mental models a little bit more deeply in terms of their essence. At the most foundational step, if you will, I mentioned that we’re going to talk a lot about assumptions. Mental models are made up of a series of underlying assumptions. So, before you can determine the accuracy of your mental models, you must first identify your explicit but also your hidden assumptions. So we start by separating fact from fiction. Now any hard data that you collect, will provide verifiable information that can form the basis for realistic mental models. But I want to point out that even facts or so-called facts, can actually contain some assumptions. So, what am I talking about? Let’s take a scenario, a simple one in which a vendor says it will take four weeks to process your order. Now this is a fact. The vendor said it will take four weeks. But the mental model in this example assumes that whoever provided that information, on behalf of the vendor had correct information and also that that individual did not have any ability to be flexible with that time frame. Now, we go to the next step, the interpretation part. Interpretation has to do with opinions based on the data or part of the data. These are not provable. So if we continue with our earlier example, if the vendor said it will take four weeks to process your order, and the project is due in three weeks let’s say, you’re going to be behind schedule. That would be an example.
And then we move to evaluation. Evaluations are value judgments that we place on the data information or the situation. So again back to our scenario, an example would be that the project manager messed up and should be replaced. So, in this example, some of the assumptions are the vendor cannot change the length of time required to process the order. The project deadline can’t be changed. The project manager is at fault. I want to point out, I understand this example is simple. We’ll get into some real examples momentarily. But this slide is showing a potentially vicious cycle.
Now remember I said at the beginning a characteristic of mental models is that they provide simplified explanations for complex situations. And that they’re vague enough for us to follow, even if they happen to be wrong. Now honestly, if you remember only one thing that I say today, please let it be this: Our assumptions have a very significant effect, a very large effect on how we select from reality. And they can lead us to ignore the actual facts altogether. So completely skipping over observable and verifiable information. So we can literally jump to conclusion. This is actually where this phrase jumping to conclusions comes from. That we completely omit fact. And I’m going to quote from Steve Maraboli here. He’s a behavioral science academic. “You will always define events in a manner which will validate your agreement with reality.” Please remember that. You will always define events in a manner which will validate your agreement with reality. More colloquially I’d suggest where you stand is also a function of where you sit.
So it stands to reason that we need to carefully examine and challenge honestly all of our assumptions. So how are we going to go about clarifying our assumptions? If we’re going to clarify our assumptions about our mental models, and I really encourage you to be comprehensive when you think about the mental models in your workplace and your industries. So as a start, make sure that you’re including things that relate to your products and services. Your customer, your workplace culture, definitely the conditions within your industry. And ask questions. Over, over and over again, ask questions.
Now it can begin with something as obvious as what are my assumptions, or if you’re talking to someone else, what are your assumptions? But then you want to ask yourself things that are much more in depth, so what’s the data for that? What’s the proof of that? What might I be missing here? If you’re talking to someone else you might want to ask them what did you want to achieve when you did that? Or what exactly did you mean when you said that? What is your understanding of . . .? So just really encouraging you to continually ask questions. You think of children, and they’re constantly asking why and why and over and over and over. I would actually encourage you to take that type of an approach when you’re trying to clarify your assumptions. Having said that, even if you’re asking all these questions, the challenge here is that straightforward questions don’t always reveal your assumptions. Sometimes these assumptions are too deeply ingrained. There’s this colloquialism, if you ask a fish where it lives, the last thing it will say is that it lives in water. It doesn’t know any different, so it’s not going to answer water. In that case, you can make use of the questions that are listed in your screen or certainly modify them so use questions that are similar to the ones on your screen.
I’m going to use Kodak as an example here. Kodak, I’m sure you know this, is best known for photographic film products. So during most of the 20th century they held a dominant position in photographic film. In 1976, for example, they had 90 percent of the photographic film sales market share in the United States. I’m going to date myself once again. How many of you remember the term, “Kodak moment?” For those of you who are too young to remember, the term was used to describe a personal event that needed to be recorded for posterity. So despite that domination, Kodak began to struggle financially in the late 1990s. And it was because of the decline in sales of photographic film. But also their speed or their lack of speed I should say in transitioning to digital photography. Here’s the point though, it’s not that they hadn’t invented the core technology used in digital cameras. They had. So it wasn’t that they were having a problem with innovation or technology, it’s that their mental model prevented them from recognizing the primacy of digital photography over film. So what I’d like for us to do now is practice revealing hidden assumptions. Again, I’m going to use an example that is outside most of the industries in which we all work so that perhaps we could all answer the question. Here’s the statement for you: Violent video games will never become widespread because most parents don’t want their children playing them. What I’d like for you to answer is what are the hidden assumptions that you see in this statement? And I see someone asked me the name of the person I quoted earlier and that was Steve Maraboli.
Alright, so only children play video games; that’s great absolutely. So we’re assuming in that statement that parents in fact are not playing violent video games. Here’s another terrific one: The assumption is that parents control their children. How do we know that children themselves don’t make certain decisions to buy and play video games? Want and allow are two different things. Good point. Parents pay attention to what children play. Parents can keep their kids from playing games. We are making an assumption that we all think violence is the same to everybody. The word never, some parents don’t care. Future felons. Parents do care. That violence is not subjective. Some of these themes are clearly repeating. Parents will monitor them at all times. Parents think that viewing violence will lead to violent behavior. Terrific, this is just an exceptional list. It goes on to say that we’re making an assumption that kids play games, that every parent wants what’s best for their children. Controlling exposure at school. That parents are aware of the level of violence. A number of you have pointed out the use of the word never. Indiana brain scan study demonstrates the role of violent video games on brain function. Assuming that the target is kids. Assumes that all kids are the same. Your answers are literally pouring in so I’m going to stop there, because I think you see the point. I want to make clear that my purpose in this exercise. We don’t yet know whether these assumptions are valid or not. And you had just an absolute extraordinary list. You weren’t kidding when at the very beginning you said that you wanted this session to be interactive. I actually still see that some of you are typing. So some of these assumptions may or may not be valid. But this first critical step is to expose them.
And now the second step is to turn to assessing the accuracy of these assumptions, and I’m going to introduce this section with an example. As it turns out Kodak was not the only company that had a mental model that didn’t favor digital. So you’re probably loosely familiar with Polaroid. Edwin Land founded the company in 1938. Ten years later he designed a camera that developed instant photographs. This camera was an instant, pardon the pun, an instant success. And the way that the company made money was primarily from selling film for these cameras. Polaroid also developed some of the first and best digital cameras, but because their business model was based on selling film and the profit margins were high- reportedly the profit margins were about 65 percent- so Polaroid executives didn’t believe digital imaging with no film was an attractive or viable business model. McAllister Booth, he was the CEO in 1985, said this in a letter to stockholders, and I’m quoting directly here now. “As electronic imaging becomes more prevalent, there remains a basic human need for a permanent visual record.”
Now, they made three main assumptions which are listed on your screen. First, they thought the customers would always want hard copy prints of their images. Now it’s important to point out, this was despite the fact they had conducted market research. They still hadn’t anticipated that the digital slide show would replace photo albums. The second was they thought they would always be able to make money through development and photographic chemistry. So, according to former VP Sheldon Bucker, the Polaroid company culture had a bias completely against electronics. And as I said earlier, instant film was the core of their financial model. The third assumption falls from this. Polaroid believed that digital photography wasn’t a viable business model because it didn’t involve film.
So one way to assess the accuracy of your mental models is to be on the lookout for what we call typical mental mistakes. Those are listed on your screen. The first is that we tend to notice evidence that supports our mental models and overlooks or disregards evidence that is inconsistent with it. This is called confirmation bias. And it is the most pervasive bias that human beings possess. We are very much oriented to proving what we already know rather than going out and disproving or finding invalidating information. So a great example of this would be carmakers who initially ignored the signs that consumers wanted smaller cars and that they also wanted hybrid cars.
You tend to remain attached to what made you successful in the first place. I just talked about Polaroid sticking with film. You tend to not try what your mental model tells you is bad or impossible. So think of energy companies when they have a tendency not to pursue alternative forms of energy that they believe are not feasible for them. Finally, you tend to focus on the current market competitive situation and fail to anticipate the future. As an example of this Apple changed its name from Apple Computer in 2007 and they did this to reflect their move away from only computers into the broader market of consumer electronics. So this is what I mean by looking to the future instead of sticking to the present.
And, by the way, I see a question that has just come in around stereotyping. Stereotyping I frankly could have added it on to this slide. Stereotypes are rigid perceptions that we hold. So they’re over generalizations that we use based on very small bits of data. Stereotypes would be an example of another type of mental mistake that would lead to inaccurate mental models. The one that comes to my mind not so much for organizational life but to say that all fats are bad for you would be an example of a stereotype. Because in fact the nutritionists and research tells us now that there are numerous fat sources, whether they be olive oil or nuts or avocados that potentially have some very healthful benefits. That’s a great question, though.
I want to move to showing you what you can do to assess the accuracy of your models. This is one of those slides. It has a series of questions and I wanted to list these questions for you so you can take these back to your offices. Again you do not have to use these questions, I just wanted to provide you with examples for how you can actually go about and assess accuracy. But what I want to do for the remainder of our time together, is actually talk about how are we going to go about changing our mental models?
First and foremost, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be willing to change in the first place. If you don’t recognize the need to change it’s just not going to happen. We encourage people to look at why the change is necessary and more specifically, think about what would happen if you didn’t change. So it’s important to find ways to detach from existing mental models in the ways companies like GAP did when they changed their core product. I should point out that this may be more difficult than you think because of resistance. I just thought of this example this morning the Swiss watch makers back in the ’70s when digital watches first came out they really did not embrace digital watches, in fact did not believe they were here to stay and it took the Swiss watch makers years to actually catch on that in fact this trend was here to stay. If you watch the response now and of course I think of this because Apple is about to release its first Apple Watch, at first, admittedly, the digital watch makers were dismissive. I’m not going suggest that they were right in the moment embracing this idea. But if you look within a very short period of time they’ve already begun announcing some new partnerships. So, I would submit to you that the Swiss watch-making industry has responded this time with incredible speed. They have really learned to adjust their mental models and I would suggest to you that this is because they learned from the ’70s what happened when they took a very long time to actually adjust their mental models. My point in that story is just because you once had resistance doesn’t mean that that resistance needs to stay. This is something that can be worked on.
Open your minds. And again, some of these things are easy to say, not always easy to do, but let’s give some examples. For starters, start paying attention to everything around you that may lead to a better mental model. So be open to ideas that you might previously have even dismissed. If you find that you like an idea but you’re unsure how to apply it, keep on working with it. Many innovations were originally intended for a completely different use. So NASA in particular is a source of numerous inventions that have gone on to become widespread applications in other industries and just a few examples, scratch-resistant lenses, competition swimsuit material, aerodynamic golf balls, athletic shoes, the Dustbuster, flat panel TVs, freeze-dried food technology, solar energy, MRI actually. All of these ideas while not used at NASA originally came from NASA. And this is what we call a form of creative swiping. So creative swiping is one way to develop new mental models and basically you’re looking to other industries to see what ideas and concepts you can modify that will then work in your organization. So this first one, doing different things in the same way, that refers to the things like the NASA inventions being used elsewhere. Doing the same thing in different ways. If you talk about differing levels of service. Think about the differences between full service and express service hair salons. As a different example, think of the difference between a convenience store that offers coffee versus enjoying a cup of coffee sitting in comfortable chairs and having access to Wi-Fi.
Again if we take this back to your specific workplace, keep asking yourself, what level of service can we add or subtract from our current mental model. So another option for doing the same thing in different ways it to think about different approaches to achieving the same goals. So take fitness. You can achieve fitness at home with a DVD, at home with a personal trainer if you happen to be lucky that way, at a health club in a group class, at a health club on a treadmill, at a health club with a personal trainer for that matter. I mean, you get the idea. So, multiple ways to get to the same result. Completing taxes works exactly the same way. So you have the option of hiring an accountant or a tax prep company, but you can also do it yourself with tax-preparation software. So, again taking it back into your workplace, you’re again asking what can we add to or eliminate from our existing mental model. And then the third one on this side how can you do different things in different ways. Ask yourself what other uses you can find for your existing products and services. Maybe how can you combine them to come up with something new or different from your competition? How can you modify your current mental model?
Here’s the final technique that I’ll talk about today and that is reverse your assumption. When you reverse an assumption, it will often allow you to reveal inaccuracies in limiting beliefs in the original assumption. And it might even provide you with some fresh insights. So let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. If we take the assumption that raising prices will lead to higher revenue and profit, what you want to do is reverse the assumption and write the opposite.
So in this case, raising prices will lead to lower revenue and profit. So the next step you want to look at the actions and behaviors and consequences of this opposite assumption. For example, customers may purchase less when the price goes up because they are very price sensitive. Or if I extrapolate that further, customers may be forced to look into less expensive options and not do business with us anymore at all. So again we obviously don’t indeed know if this is true. We’ll need to collect more information to determine that. But reversing your assumption will help you to amass information about the accuracy of your assumption rather than automatically jumping to conclusions that higher prices mean more money.
So the last thing I’d like to offer up to you to encourage you to practice thinking in new ways. Brainteasers are a great way to get people to open their minds and change their perspectives. So obviously the equation in front of you is incorrect. Your challenge is to make it correct without touching it with a pen or a pencil. So, if you feel you know how to do so, please let me know in the chat or in the question. Oh, there we go, now the answers are coming in, clearly you have all figured it out. Several of you have said upside down or reverse it. Exactly.
Now we have one more for you. So again once you know the answer, please feel free to write it in. There we go. We have a taker. You are correct whoever wrote that in. The answer is bake. So they have sale in common. So you could have a bake sale and you could have a garage sale. Thank you. That will be the last question that I ask you today. Thank you so very much for your participation.
One final example with respect to creating new mental models, we talked earlier briefly about Intel. So remember founded in 1969 to manufacture memory chips for computers. So they invented the microprocessor chip in 1971, but their business plan was based on a mental model of making money selling memory chips. This mental model was challenged in the ’80s when the company lost money to its low-cost Japanese competitors. They went about creating a new model by asking themselves, and I’m quoting, “If we were fired, what would the new leadership do?” Great question, and by the way a variant of this question that I hear many established companies using today is if we were a start-up, what would we be doing? If we were starting our business brand new today, how would it be different than what we are doing right now? Getting back to Intel, though, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove made the decision to abandon memory chips and move to selling microprocessor chips. I don’t want to sugar coat the story here. At the time, the company lost more than $180 million and let go 8,000 employees. But the point is that it was through changing the mental model that they have become one of the most successful companies in the high-tech industry.
And with our final slide, there are a list of again questions you can use to help you get started or at least help you with some of the creative aspects of creating new mental models. And I submit to you these are only here not as a solid process of any kind, they are here to get the ball rolling for you because sometimes we can get a little bit stuck, and so I offer up these questions for you as ones you can use just to spur on some creativity. And with that I will turn it back to Sarah and see if there are any questions.
SARAH: OK, great, thank you. We have some great responses from the attendees. So if you would like to get in touch with Diana after the session her contact information is on that slide right there (Diana.firstname.lastname@example.org). And we do have some time for a live Q&A so why don’t you go ahead and just type that into the box right now and while we wait for those questions to come in, let me share a little bit about the program that is the foundation of today’s session. And this is Mental Models. For a limited time this will be on sale for $79. You can review the guide risk free for 30 days and you can always use that coupon code and that will be honored until April 8. And this guide includes the PowerPoint presentation and development and background information. OK, perfect, and we do have a number of questions filtering in now, so why don’t I go ahead and get that started?
It looks like our first one is from Mark: How can you increase your likelihood of success using mental models?
DIANA: Oh that’s a wonderful question. Thank you, Mark. A couple of things and these are in no particular order. The first I think is to be intentional. For example I talked about the Swiss watch makers, and back in the ’70s they were clearly not intentional in their approach. So when I talk about intentionality I mean one, intentionality with respect to if our competitors are looking at this, perhaps we should be looking at it, too. Perhaps there is something that we are missing. So when I talk about intentionality, I’m talking about a reactive stance, but I’m also talking about the proactive stance. And what I mean by the proactive are that some of the things that we’ve done today, so, looking at our hidden assumptions, looking at trying to reveal those more difficult hidden assumptions making sure we’re collecting a variety of information. Being curious to new information. How can I apply this? And a simple take-away I would suggest is to constantly be asking questions. I talked about children and the fact that they have the tendency to constantly ask the why questions. I once did an interview a number of years ago but it was in an academic institution and literally the entire interview the interviewer asked me all the questions. Sorry, I said it the other way around. The interviewer asked me to just constantly ask questions for the entire duration of the interview. And at the time I thought this was really odd, so at the end I asked, why this format of an interview? And they were trying to get at how I think based on how I ask questions. So I think getting into the mindset of always asking questions is a great way to increase your likelihood of success and the last thing I’ll say is from an emotional intelligence perspective is to really work on your flexibility. There are some people for whom this is a very well-honed quality and you will embrace flexibility and for some people not so much and from and emotional intelligence perspective this is something that can be worked on.
SARAH: OK, perfect. Thank you. And it looks like our next question is coming from Tara: You have examples, but do many companies do this?
DIANA: Well, the short answer to that is yes. And I think that it’s possible that not everybody is necessarily going to refer to it as mental models, but I would suggest at this point most strategic processes include some elements of mental models. If you do anything with respect to critical thinking, for example, critical thinking is really terrific at unearthing some of those mental mistakes we talked about. I mentioned confirmation bias and then one of you wrote in and asked about stereotyping. These are all components that factor into mental models. I believe that all organizations are using parts of this and if I go back to Peter Senge, who has written so prolifically about systems thinking, I think there’s a real benefit to pull it all together and use mental models holistically rather than just bits and pieces of the information.
SARAH: OK, perfect, thank you. And I think we have time for maybe just one more question. And that one is coming from Cindy: Where can I get more information?
DIANA: Clearly it’s going to depend on where you’re at right now. I would suggest two things off the top of my head. I mentioned at the beginning of the presentation Peter Senge’s the Fifth Discipline, don’t, by the way, let the name of the book fool you. While it’s true that the Fifth Discipline talks about five disciplines toward becoming a learning organization, it’s all about building and sustaining learning capacity. It’s only one of the five disciplines that actually has to do with mental models. But it is extremely comprehensive. Really, it’s a foundational piece for learning about mental models and it offers tools and practices and principles and I would suggest that as a really terrific foundational starting place. And I would also send you back to our host HRDQ-U. They have a number of training resources where so much of the material is already laid out for you. So once you have a foundational grounding you know how long you spend developing new content. So, once you have that foundational grounding, if you can use some of the resources of an organization like HRDQ-U, I don’t have to tell you how much time that’s going to save you.
SARAH: OK, great. And, Diana, would you just like to add some final thoughts before wrapping this up?
DIANA: I think that’s it. I would just encourage you, I know from my own work, this topic is certainly not the most sought-after topic. So when I think of the full gamut of things that management consultants do for example. But, I would submit to you, you can more quickly make an impact because while these are very sophisticated approaches, I hope even from this hour that you started to see the value and what a difference this type of approach can make. So I would hope that you could go back to your organization and literally start applying tomorrow and I think you will see mental models can make a huge difference in your organization. And I thank you so much for attending this webinar.
SARAH: Alright, great. Well, Diana, thank you so much, again. And if we did not have to time to get to your question, you probably will receive an emailed response, probably mid next week. So we appreciate your time and we hope you found today’s webinar informative.
Each one of us has a perception of reality about how the world works—a mental model. Like an internal hard drive, it provides understanding, guides thinking, and directs decision making. Built from everyday experiences, outside influences, and rewards such as money and success, mental models can be both beneficial and detrimental to success. Just as technology shifts and advances, so does the need for individuals, teams, and organizations to update, flex, and reconstruct mental models to improve performance.
An excellent starting point is to create awareness. Sign up now for a webinar that will teach participants how to examine their mental models, separate fact from opinion, clarify assumptions, and reveal hidden beliefs. Using interactive exercises and activities, this learning experience illustrates the need to tune into one’s surroundings, look for opportunities, and approach work with an open mind.
Participants Will Learn
- Understand what mental models are and how they influence the workplace
- Identify one’s personal mental model
- Recognize the mental model assumptions
- Reveal hidden mental model biases
- Learn how to avoid typical mental mistakes
- Develop the ability to adjust mental models for better performance
Who Should Attend
- Organization development professionals
- Human resources professionals
- Supervisors and managers
Diana is a leadership development specialist with an emphasis on emotional intelligence and personal change. She spent 11 years with a leading global psychological test publisher. There, she worked withclients as diverse as the U.S. Air Force, American Express, and Air Canada, building evidence-based models for predicting individual and organizational performance.
Diana holds an M.S. in Organization Development from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Corporate Learning and Development, a joint program between the Graduate School of Education and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.