Mental models are tools that help us more efficiently arrive at decisions: they filter information and give it narrative shape. But they always represent a particular lens. They help make meaning, but meaning comes at the expense of information.
Relying on only one mental model limits our view of the problem space. To overcome this limitation, try to apply multiple mental models to the situation. Select models that are potentially antagonistic with one another and use them to find salience or causal relationships among the data that cannot be anticipated by any model alone.
This can be challenging to accomplish, as we tend to specialize over time, returning to comfortable, reliable tools of thought. Bring in collaborators who can apply different perspectives to help overcome this potential gap.
Roger Martin calls this practice "assertive inquiry."
- Narratives enable us to act decisively in conditions of uncertainty - A mental model is a kind of narrative to help us maneuver through complexity.
- Cognitive diversity enhances team problem solving capabilities - Teams that are cognitively diverse expend our view of what is salient to the problem space.
- Specialization narrows our perspective on what is salient to a problem - When we specialize, we risk narrowing our focus and might overlook salient information or data.
- Protect dissent - It's important to enshrine the capacity to question decisions and push back against popular modes of thought.