How can we become better thinkers and decision makers?

question to innovate

This the sixteenth of a series of weekly posts where I will answer a few common questions about innovation. Please feel free to add your own response. Also, if you have any questions you think we should discuss, let me know.

“The better decision maker has at his/her disposal repertoires of possible actions; checklists of things to think about before he acts; and he has mechanisms in his mind to evoke these, and bring these to his conscious attention when the situations for decision arise.” – Herbert Simon, Nobel Laureate

There are plenty of ways to make better decisions. But what about when you are dealing with complexity (which we all do)? How can you see the essence of anything quickly?

Create a portfolio of mental models

One way is to use models. These are also called frameworks. I have an issue with frameworks because, for the simple minded, they can become “the only way”. I prefer to pursue fluid intelligence, which is an abstract and conceptual way of thinking. It also sets you up to then zoom in and use specific models that fit that situation.

We can all become better at thinking by developing a portfolio of mental models.

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner, calls it a latticework of mental models:

Why is creating a portfolio of mental models important?

I’ve always seen similarities between business models and mental models. Our mental models, just like business models, can’t remain static. Here’s how Nike CEO Mark Parker explains Nike’s transformation from a shoe company:

“Business models are not meant to be static,” he explains. “In the world we live in today, you have to adapt and change. One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated, bureaucratic company that’s happy with its success. That will wind up being your death in the end.”

A doming view of strategy, is we have to have a dominant core competence on which to build on. This capability, must then match our aspirations. It is a similar view of personal development, where you coach people to focus on using their strengths to reach their goals. I’ve always believed that we must become more rounded, and develop fluid competence. As in, competence is various domains. Not just one. This requires that we, not only further develop and use our strengths, but also turn our weaknesses into strengths.

We discussed “model thinking in social media” on yesterday’s #innochat. A dominant view, is that we must not depend on one singular model. Yet, most people can’t stand themselves to search or develop a meta-model. It is the same dynamic that plays out in the world of business. Everyone is looking for that dominant business model.

All models have an expiration date

Just like successful businesses are held back by their business models, so it is with people. The reason we can’t see beyond the obvious, is because we are held hostage by old mental models. We get confident and develop tunnel vision, thinking our way is the only way. This is a fallacy.

We must fight this tendency and continue to develop, and create, new mental models.

Below I’ve embedded an ebook from Think Mental Models that contains the big ideas from different domains. The main idea is that for us to become better thinkers, and therefore better decision makers, is to have a portfolio of mental models at our disposal.

How do you create a portfolio of mental models? I’ll teach you how on the next post 😉

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