Elevate Your Mind.
Through the Master Mind Newsletter, delivered every other Tuesday, we unleash your full potential and upgrade decision-making. We’ll explore mental models and life design.
Problem Discovery: A Mental Models Cookbook
By Juan Carlos
Choosing the right problem is more important than finding the best solution. If you don’t pick the right issue, you waste time implementing unwanted or unneeded actions. Take a couple of steps back, ensure enough time is given to isolate the problem and proceed confidently to solutions.
- Assess your tools and figure out if you rely on one too heavily.
- Unravel each problem to see its merit and whether it is worthy of pursuing.
- Recognize that information or data is a map of reality and not actual. Review those imperfections.
- Utilize hypothetical situations to examine a problem’s outcome.
- Maslow’s Hammer asks you to be wise with the tools you use or fall into regularly.
- Second Order Thinking asks you to look beneath the surface.
- The Map is not the Territory notes; a map is not reality. It represents a territory. A map is symbolic, a model of reality.
- Thought Experiments are imaginary scenarios where a hypothesis is examined to understand its outcome.
The Deep Dive
If you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. Folks mistakenly use Maslow’s Hammer by applying a familiar solution to every problem. Over-relying on one tool comes at the expense of employing a more suitable one. “Man with a hammer” syndrome is a subconscious process where individuals return to solutions that have worked previously without thought or hesitation instead of considering options.
Second Order Thinking
Don’t search for a solution by thinking linearly; consider outcomes you don’t want to occur first. So, think about how things can go wrong rather than plot a one-year plan meticulously. 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.
The Map is Not the Territory
A map is not reality; it represents a territory. In this context, a map is symbolic, a model of reality, and can even describe a moment in time that has passed. Maps are not perfect, which is purposefully so, as they reduce the Territory. Similarly, our minds create maps of reality; though the Territory exists beyond our minds, we construct it within ourselves. In that sense, maps help parse information. For example, a map can look similar to what it describes or use different structures to visualize the Territory.
An imaginary scenario where a hypothesis, principle, or theory is examined to understand the outcomes. Narratives are often an easier route to understanding a complex problem, and thought experiments capitalize on this by using analogy to drive comprehension. Someone without previous experience in an industry can quickly learn a challenging idea and connect it to what they know. It generates new information by restructuring and reordering data from a new perspective. Thought experiments validate an existing theory, question an existing theory, create a new theory, and refute a current theory. They communicate complex theories accessibly, spark ideas, and promote speculation.
Unlock Clear Thinking
Fueled by a passion for storytelling and excitement for life design, I find joy in reframing narratives to illuminate paths toward fulfillment. My experience spans high-growth startups, filmmaking, and social impact, culminating in my authorship of “Mind Guide: 49 Mental Models for Effective Decision Making.” Through mentoring and coaching, I guide teams and individuals to discover purpose and cultivate a meaningful life.
I started in film, directing award-winning features such as ‘Know How’ and ‘Second Skin.’ These cinematic endeavors earned me recognition and allowed me to serve as a spokesperson for Adobe. I founded the White Roof Project, a grassroots climate activism campaign that mitigated the urban heat island effect and spurred community-led social change.
I carried my storytelling skills and passion for societal transformation as I transitioned into the startup ecosystem. Initially, I contributed to social impact apps, converting complex issues into accessible solutions. This early experience laid a foundation for my later work, where I led the development of groundbreaking products within high-growth startups. My work has underscored the potential of technology to innovate industries and amplify the quality of human life.