Mental Models Cookbook for Orienting Solutions
These mental model groupings is where they become a latticework of thinking tools.
It’s not so different from using a hammer to nail everything and discovering that a screwdriver can screw things in better than a hammer. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more capable you are of choosing the correct ones.
In a mental model’s case, the benefit of correctly selecting the best ones is the ability to see clearly.
The ultimate goal is to utilize them collectively and feel comfortable recalling them in critical moments where they can be employed to inform better decisions.
Orienting a problem to the correct solution is tricky and not always apparent. Take the time required to consider each stage in the process, remove misguided thinking, and clarify outcomes.
- Algorithms are in nearly all aspects of life: systems need them to function. These instructions solve problems and adapt to their inputs. They don’t aim for perfection but rather to produce valuableStart with problem definition to ensure that you’re solving the right issue.
- Peel back the onion to ascertain what are the inherent constraints you are working within.
- Flip your thinking to look at the problem backward from the solution.
- Ensure you are choosing what is necessary for the first iteration.
Algorithms come in various formats: natural language, flowcharts, and programming, among others. Natural language algorithms are usually less complex when compared to more unambiguous flowcharts. Programming languages are often created for computer use but can d
- First Principles will challenge your assumptions about a problem or scenario.
- Bottlenecks & Constraints will help you think about the specifics of your scenario.
- Inversion will allow you to think about how it could go wrong and avoid those outcomes.
- Minimum Product will ensure you create something of value quickly and iteratively.
First principles thinking is the discipline of challenging all your assumptions about a problem or scenario. From that line of questioning, you create new knowledge. Consequently, a first principle is a foundational assumption broken down to its atomic level — it stands alone. Simply put: question everything you know or think you know about a problem, discover truths, and generate an original solution.
Bottlenecks & Constraints
Bottlenecks are the point where a path restricts flow. Constraints are restrictions or limitations in the system. The bottleneck, aptly named after a bottle’s neck, restricts liquid flow. In practice, it is the spot where congestion appears and is fixable. On the other hand, constraints cannot be removed from the system. A project’s set cost or scope are limiting factors.
Don’t search for a solution by thinking linearly; consider outcomes you don’t want to occur first. So, rather than plot a one-year plan meticulously, think about all the ways things can go wrong. Figure out how you or the idea will fail, so you don’t end up there. By inverting a problem, you can better understand what you don’t want to happen and avoid adverse effects you would have otherwise invited. Thinking forwards is additive and solutions-oriented, whereas thinking backward is subtractive and seeks to remove missteps. Using inversion, you’ll shine a light on roadblocks that are not immediately apparent.
A functional version of a product that draws early adopters in to validate the idea, provide feedback, and use their reactions to inform future product iterations. First, you build it, then you collect and measure data and learn what the customer and market want. The product should be valuable to consumers who might use it or purchase it.
The Deep Dive
Learn more about each Mental Model and how to use them.
What Are Mental Models?
Mental models are thinking tools that help guide and shape our perceptions of the world. They simplify complexity so we can understand life better, make decisions confidently, and solve problems.