In conversations with Ethan Fletcher, we’ve mulled over taxonomies and uses of mental models.
For me, a mental model is way to understand and solve complex problems.
I think you can get better by increasing the number of mental models in your toolbox, as well a correctly applying the right models to the right problems.
Models I (try to) Utilize
See below for an attempt to loosely and quickly define the models I often find myself using to solve problems.
1. Legal Model: Law is based on logic, analogies, and advocacy. A strength is in its intellectual rigor; a weakness is its narrowness.
2. Entrepreneurship Model: Entrepreneurship is based on risk taking, problem solving, customer empathy, and organizational development. A strength is in its built in humility, innovation, and openness; a weakness is in its systems level limitations.
3. Communications Model: Communications is based on influencing people through any means possible. A strength is in its melding of creativity, psychology, and data; a weakness is that it is morally and substantively neutral.
4. Human Resources Model: HR is based on recruiting, selecting, developing, and promoting or exiting people based on their skills and values. A strength is in aligning organizational and individual needs and desires; a weakness is in its tight focus on what is happening inside of the organization.
5. Leadership Model: Leadership is based aligning the greatest strength of a high-performing individual to an organization, management team, and environmental context. A strength is in its ability to get the most out of extremely talented people; a weakness is that too heavy a focus on this model can lead to neglect of the greater organization and environment.
6. Organizational Design Model: Org design is based on creating internal coherency of mission, strategy, people, culture, tasks, and goals. A strength is its holistic approach to building organizations; a weakness is that it more about design than execution.
7. Economic Model: Economics is based in large part on incentives. A strength is that it lends itself to systems level thinking and policy development; a weakness is that it is social science that too often ignores the other social sciences (psychology, anthropology, sociology, political science, etc.)
8. Political Model: The political model organizes people as ideological tribes, with the liberal conservative, and libertarian tribes being most prominent. A strength is that it accurately defines how different tribes hear and understand arguments; a weakness is that it provides less predictive power of how change and compromise occurs over time.
9. Politician Model: Politician thinking involves building a coalition that can create support for a policy, law, action, etc. A strength of this model is that it understands political chance in terms of psychology rather than rationality; a weakness to the model is that is morally and substantively neutral.
10. Evolutionary Model: Evolution is based on fitness, experimentation, and adaptation. A strength is that operates outside of volition; a weakness is that its explanatory power is more backwards looking than forwards looking.
11. Status Model: Status thinking is based on the idea that status is a prime motivator for human action. A strength is its ability to mine for actual rather than professed rationales; a weakness is that it can be difficult to disapprove and therefor risks being over applied.
All of the above is a rough sketch. In a few sentences, I tried to define extremely complex subjects that I don’t fully understand.
But you get the idea.
There are numerous ways to understand and solve problems, and using the right mental models can help you solve them.