A New Yorker hails a cab differently than a tourist. A New Yorker focuses on cabs with roof lights on. Tourists don't know that when lights are off, the driver already has a rider. 😬
A New Yorker steps into the road with their arm extended horizontally. A tourist stands on the sidewalk with their hand poked in the air like a student waiting to be called on in class.
New Yorkers get cabs faster than tourists, because through experience, they've developed better "know-how". Think of mental models as know-how.
We use mental models to explain to ourselves how things work. We can't make a decision, solve a problem or perform a task without a mental model.
A good mental model allows you to process large amounts of information quickly and make faster, more accurate decisions. It also improves memory, pattern recognition and decision making.
Whatever your goal is, there's certain know-how that you need. You can package that know-how into a mental model that's easy to remember and apply in different situations.
PACKAGING YOUR KNOW-HOW
- Know-how includes thoughts that are good to remember.
- Know-how creates realistic expectations, which you should begin to anticipate.
- Know-how identifies solutions to common challenges you can pre-plan in advance.
- Know-how can improve your routine behavior and identify habits you should repeat.
Here's what a New Yorker's mental model for hailing a cab might look like -
- Remember - cab drivers change shifts between 4-5pm
- Anticipate - it's harder to get a cab between 4-5pm
- Plan - if I need a cab between 4-5pm, then I will focus on larger, 2-way thoroughfares like 42nd street
- Repeat - take subways during taxi shift changes!
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR MENTAL MODELS
- Focus on common challenges - pick leadership scenarios you're less confident in
- "Pick brains" w/purpose - ask people you respect for their thoughts (beliefs and expectations) and best practices (habits and routines)
- Keep notes - good mental models should be easy to reference in the future
- Be the authentic you - you can't embrace thoughts or behaviors you don't believe in
- Be patient - the more mental models you develop the easier they get, and your mental models will evolve over time
Challenge: engaging employees in uncertain times
- Remember - the only certainty is uncertainty
- Anticipate - when uncertain, people tend to disengage
- Plan - if people disengage, then focus them on short-term tasks
- Repeat - promote daily and accumulated progress
Challenge: dealing with personal stress
- Remember - stress is a psychological response to a perceived threat
- Anticipate - we often become needlessly stressed
- Plan - if you're stressed, then taking a thinking break
- Repeat - avoid thinking traps