#00 Introducing Mental Models

What’s in your mental workshop?

Music by: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music/acoustic-folk

Get the podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud, or Overcast.

Welcome to the mike’s mental models podcast. This season will be all about my favorite mental models and how I apply them.

But first, what is a mental model?

Tren Griffin’s site, and book, are good introductions as to how Charlie Munger explains mental models. Munger says you need a latticework of models from a variety of disciplines. You need the right tool for the job — and ways of thinking are the tools.

For example, is evolution a good model for business? Is business a case of survival of the fittest? Do companies evolve in the same way Darwin noted? Are there islands of isolation that demonstrate core parts?

Each of these questions requires certain facts, which we need to get right before we begin.

“If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.” (Munger)

You need the IKEA parts before the wrench.

Make sure you have the right tools for the job.

Once you have all the wooden pieces (facts), you can use the tool (mental model). IKEA furniture requires a single wrench, but life unboxes more complex problems. We’ll need more tools.

“If you just have one or two (mental models) that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does.” (Munger)

Munger goes on to say that a handful of excellent models will go a long way. It’s like a kitchen, get a knife, pot, and pan and you’re ready to cook 80% of the recipes that cross your plate.

The same goes for models.

Here’s the problem, models are abstract. It’s easy to see what tools a workshop or kitchen needs. It’s more difficult when things aren’t tangible.

This podcast season will aim to fix that. Here’s how.

In his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams introduces the “moist robot theory.” Think of yourself as a moist robot, one that can be programmed to (mostly) act in certain ways. For example:

“Pay attention to the attitudes of people who have recently exercised. You’ll discover they are almost always happy and upbeat. Now also look at the attitudes of people who have recently eaten versus the people who are hungry. You’ll see a big difference. Tired people are grumpy, rested people are less so. Exercise, food, and sleep should be your first buttons to push if you’re trying to elevate your attitude and raise your energy.”

It’s a programming language: if I’m sleepy, I will go for a walk.

This applies to using mental models too. If I’m confused by X, then I will apply model Y.

I have no idea what your X will be, but I can offer some Y variables to plug in. This season of podcast will have 8–12 episodes about mental models that I’ve observed and you can use.


Thanks for reading. Are you a start-up? Want to avoid the mistakes that others have made? Check out my book.

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