August 2005

Thought Provoking Books and Articles

Two books highlight the relevance of mental models to achieving dramatic gains in business performance.


Leading Strategic Change - Breaking Through the Brain Barrier

by J. Stewart Black and Hal B. Gregersen
2003, Financial Times Prentice Hall

"Unlocking individual change starts and ends with the mental maps people carry in their heads - how they see the organization and their jobs." This book is the best I have read in depicting the implications of mental maps and how leaders can alter them. The strength of the book is in descriptions of specific approaches that leaders can take to have people see: (1) what is outside their mental map, (2) actions to take and (3) how to cross the finish line. The need for contrast and confrontation in enabling people to see beyond their mental maps is emphasized.


 

The Power of Impossible Thinking

by Yoram (Jerry) Wind, Colin Crook with Robert Gunther
2005, Wharton School Publishing

"One of our most enduring - and perhaps limiting - illusions is our belief that the world we see is the real world. We rarely question our own models of the world until we are forced to.

Part 1: Recognize the power and limits of mental models

Part 2: Keep your models relevant

Part 3: Transform your world

Part 4: Act quickly and effectively

The book is a good introduction to mental models for someone unfamiliar with the concept. It provides useful examples that help to get the point across. It describes thinking and conversational techniques to help leaders encourage deeper examination of situations by their staffs. We found the book particularly strong in the ways that mental models introduce distortions and in the techniques to become aware of specific limiting assumptions. We found the book lacking in substance regarding moving from awareness to innovative action on an enterprise level.


 

What Other People Say May Change What You See

by Sandra Blakeslee
The New York Times, Tuesday, June 28, 2005, Science Times page F3
www.nytimes.com

A new study uses advanced brain-scanning technology to cast light on social conformity.  Social conformity shows up in the brain as activity in regions entirely devoted to perception.  Independent judgment – standing up for one’s beliefs - shows up as activity in brain areas involved in emotion. 

In light of Innovate’s work in the area of Shifting Mental Models, this research substantiates our working premise that mental models operate to alter the way people perceive and organize the world.  Mental models affect us without our awareness or knowledge and without giving us the opportunity to think.  When we engage people to operate from ‘what they stand for’,  we introduce a new factor that enables people to break from social conformity.  This enables people to stand out from the group.  

The research was published June 22, 2005 in the online edition of Biological Psychiatry.


 

The Framing Wars

by Matt Bai
The New York Times, Sunday, July 17, 2005, Magazine page 38
www.nytimes.com

Matt Bai, a contributing writer on national politics, discusses the work of George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at Berkeley.  Dr. Lakoff is a distinguished thinker in cognitive science and the manner in which language shapes peoples perceptions and attitudes.  The work of Dr. Lakoff is used to highlight new thinking regarding how the use of language is reshaping political battles.  The basic concept is framing -- establishing through metaphor, story and repetition a single theme that has powerful unconscious, emotional influence.  When an issue is powerfully framed in a person’s mind it becomes an unshakeable conclusion.  Further communication is automatically fit into that conclusion.  Neither facts nor arguments persuade as effectively as framing. 


 

How to Make Great Decisions

Special issue of Fortune Magazine, June 27,2005
www.fortune.com

The issue contains an engaging interview with Jim Collins author of “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”.  Jim discusses his findings regarding ‘what accounts for great outcomes.’

An article on nine decision-making pitfalls by Michael Useem and Jerry Useem highlight design flaws in thinking that can have big consequences.

The issue contains other worthwhile articles.

 

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