Tackle the models on your catwalk
January 28, 2011
“Everything we think we know about the world is a model. Every word and every language is a model. All maps and statistics, books and databases, equations and computer programs are models. So are the ways I picture the world in my head – – my mental models. None of these is or ever will be the real world.” – Donella Meadows
I think that the last sentence of the paragraph above is something we all need to acknowledge more. We all hold our mental models so dear that we tend to forget that they are not the real world and that our models are always competing with other models out there, models that may or may not be more useful than our at any given moment.
The problem with us having a preconceived mental model is that we are able to fit everything that we experience into the model we hold most dearly. What we see, hear and sense can, and will, be hammered into the shape of what we already expect.
As an agile coach, I have the benefit of listening to a lot of people and often hearing many different sides of the same issue and it never ceases to amaze me how differently people can interpret the same event.
What is really sad is that as soon as we’ve characterized a person we tend to interpret everything that person does according to our selected stereotype. This reinforces our model of choice and enables us to keep drawing the same [erroneous] conclusions at an ever increasing speed.
I wish we could all learn to challenge our assumptions and our mental models more often and that we could learn to apply a tool like the Iroquois “Rule of Six” in our interactions with other people.
“The Rule of Six [for the right side of the brain] says that: For every perceivable phenomena devise at least six explanations that indeed explain the phenomena. There are probably sixty, but if you devise six, this will sensitize you to the complexity of Universe, the variability of perception. It will prevent you from fixing on the first plausible explanation as The Truth.” – Paula Underwood
If we could do this before judging a person or an event, we would realize how many good people we are surrounded by. It would also make ourselves better persons, more worthy of the benefit of a doubt from those who judge us.