Mental models are incredibly useful concepts. The term is used to describe various frameworks, or lens, that we use to describe the world.
My favourite explanation comes from the Farnam Street blog:
A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. We cannot keep all of the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks.
What Are Mental Models?
World-class thinkers are often silo-free thinkers. They avoid looking at life through the lens of one subject. Instead, they develop “liquid knowledge” that flows easily from one topic to the next.
This is why it is important to not only learn new mental models, but to consider how they connect with one another. Creativity and innovation often arise at the intersection of ideas. By spotting the links between various mental models, you can identify solutions that most people overlook.
Here, Farnham Street summarize the models they’ve found useful. In many cases, they link to an in-depth article on the mental models. Truly brilliant overview.
Gabriel Weinberg finds that mental models are useful to try to make sense of things and to help generate ideas. To actually be useful, however, you have to apply them in the right context at the right time. And for that to happen naturally, you have to know them well and practice using them.
Here, he shares the mental models that have repeatedly resonated with him.
Gabriel was also the co-author of Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models.
Mental Model Types
Confirmation bias is an unavoidable part of how you make decisions. But when you’re making big decisions, you want to mitigate its effects the best you can. Learning and understanding how confirmation bias works gives you the opportunity to compensate for its downsides and make more rational decisions.
Failing to interpret information in an unbiased way can lead to serious misjudgments. By understanding this, we can learn to identify it in ourselves and others. We can be cautious of data that seems to immediately support our views.
This article can provide an opportunity for you to assess how confirmation bias affects you.
In reality, all of us are susceptible to a tricky problem known as a confirmation bias. Our beliefs are often based on paying attention to the information that upholds them—while at the same time tending to ignore the information that challenges them.
Useful, introductory article.
Being aware of your own confirmation bias is far from easy, but it’s worth it if you want to better understand the world, make better decisions, and have better relationships both at work and in your personal life. Be more wrong in the short term, and you’ll be more right in the long term.
Tip: Ness Labs members can get access to the Cognitive Biases in Entrepreneurship research report
There’s no way to “cure” yourself of confirmation bias; it’s a natural byproduct of the way our brains work. We aren’t perfect thinkers, and probably never will be, but we can recognize our own weaknesses and make a conscious effort to make up for them. Striving to remain unbiased won’t make your strategy perfect, but it will put you in a position to make better decisions.
Confirmation bias can have detrimental effects on your marketing. In this post, Michael Aagaard walks you through three common pitfalls and give you tips on how to avoid them.
As a mental model, critical mass can help us to understand the world around us by letting us spot changes before they occur, make sense of tumultuous times, and even gain insight into our own behaviors. A firm understanding can also give us an edge in launching products, changing habits, and choosing investments.
Deliberate practice is not a magic pill, but if you can manage to maintain your focus and commitment, then the promise of deliberate practice is quite alluring: to get the most out of what you’ve got.
To learn any new skill or gain the expertise you need to practice, practice, practice. But scientific research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity.
This concept is known as deliberate practice, and it’s incredibly powerful.
If we are serious about maximizing our potential, then we need to know when deliberate practice makes the difference between success and failure and when it doesn’t. Before we can capture the power of deliberate practice, we need to understand its limitations.
Nat Eliason explains deliberate practice and how anyone can use it for their own skill development drawing solely from Ericsson’s work.
Most of these are focused on improving a certain part of the skill that may be a weakness for you and use yourself or an audience as the forms of feedback. It’s up to you to be honest about how you did and to make sure you’re completely focused while you’re working on them.
This is psychologist Anders Ericsson – on the Finding Mastery podcast with Michael Gervais – explaining that the heart of deliberate practice starts with having an awareness of which activities are catalysts for improvement.
Creators are not mere experts. Instead of deliberately practicing down an already existing path, they often create their own path for others to follow
Recent research has demonstrated that deliberate practice, while undeniably important, is only one piece of the expertise puzzle — and not necessarily the biggest piece.
Do you read business blogs where the author has failed three times without success? No, because you want to learn from success, not hear about “lessons learned” from a guy who hasn’t yet learned those lessons himself.
However, the fact that you are learning only from success is a deeper problem than you imagine.
As creators, there’s a temptation to seek out our heroes and ask them how they achieved their success. We think if we follow their instructions, we’ll be able to reproduce their winning magic. But it doesn’t work that way.
Being successful isn’t a game of “follow the leader.” Here are three reasons you shouldn’t try to replicate your heroes’ success.
In a world of signal and noise, data/science is the signal, and the prattling narcissistic gurus are the noise. Focus on the data, and make educated decisions from what the data tells you.
If you spend your life only learning from survivors, buying books about successful people and poring over the history of companies that shook the planet, your knowledge of the world will be strongly biased and enormously incomplete.
This bias is the norm online—experts bestowing well-intentioned advice on winning at something, while failing to take into account that the reason they might have succeeded is due more to their visibility than whatever method/tactic they used.
Most psychological biases gently nudge us to act in one way or another. But survivorship bias is unique in that it creates entire blind spots in our reasoning, with potentially dramatic consequences.
So whenever you’re trying to extrapolate rules or guidelines from a group, ask yourself first how that group was selected. You may find that a hidden cut-off process is biasing your sample, and warping your results.