In the past year, one of the most transformative practices I’ve found is to be more intentional about my own and other people’s mental models. It’s been transformative in that it’s helped me change how I learn, improve my decision making, and provide clarity of thought.

A mental model is a simplified representation of the world around us. It can come in the form of an assumption, generalization or even an image. We use models to understand the world around us, and our models directly influence our actions.

Here’s how I’ve found them valuable:

There are probably countless mental models in the world, and a good place to start is to understand the broadest fields of study and the key models for each one. For example, for economics the model of supply and demand is critical. In biology, evolution is a central model.

There are some excellent resources mental models here, here and here.

I am also writing about the practice of building a latticework of mental models to become a better leader. The Fifth Discipline is an excellent resource about mental models in the context of leadership.