Written by Maria Almas

Mental models: how to train your brain to think differently

Aug 31, 2020 | 0 comments

What is the mental model?

Mental models are how we understand the world. These are concepts, frameworks, and worldviews that explain how the world works and guide your perception of things and your behavior. A good example is a supply and demand that helps you understand how the economy works.

A mental model is simply a description of the workings of something. We cannot store all the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and manageable parts.

When you master the basics of each discipline, you get a more useful and accurate picture of the world. You expand the range of cognitive movements. You can train your brain to think better. One of the best ways to do this is to increase the number of mental models you use to think.

Learn and use a variety of mental models

Relying on well-known thinking tools limits our cognitive freedom of movement. When our mental models are limited, our potential to find a solution is also limited.

To reach its full potential, more mental models must be developed. So the secret behind good thinking is to learn and apply different mental models.

The process of accumulating mental patterns is like improving vision. Each eye can see something for itself. But if you cover one, you lose parts of the scene. It is impossible to see the whole picture when you look with one eye.

Mental models arise, creativity and innovation

World-class thinkers are not included in thinkers. They avoid looking through 1 subject’s lens into reality. You will develop fluid knowledge that flows easily from one subject to another. A mental model is not enough; we must always think about how things are connected.

Creativity and innovation often appear at the intersection of ideas. By recognizing the connection between different mental models, you can identify solutions that most people ignore.

Learn to think better

The performance of our thought in the present situation is proportional to the models in our heads and their usefulness. The more models you have, the larger the toolbox and the more probability that you will have the correct models to see reality.

But most of us are specialists. Instead of a grid with mental models, we have part of our discipline. Every specialist sees something different. A botanist observes a forest and can focus on the ecosystem, and environmental researcher examines the effects of climate change, a forest technician examines the growth status of trees, and a businessman examines the value of the land. None of them are wrong, but none of them can describe the full extent of the forest. Sharing knowledge or learning the basics in other subject areas leads to a more comprehensive understanding, which will lead to better initial decisions in forest management.

General concepts of thought

Competence circle

When the ego and not the competition determine what we do, we have blind spots. When you know what you understand, you know where you have an advantage over others. If you are honest about your shortcomings, you know where you are vulnerable and where you can improve. Understanding your skills improves decision-making processes and results.

The first principle of thinking

The first principle of thinking is one of the best ways of improving complicated circumstances and unleashing new possibilities. It is a tool for solving complex problems by distinguishing the underlying ideas or facts from the assumptions based on them. What remains is essential. Once you have known the first principles of something, you can build on the rest of your knowledge to contribute something new.

Thought experiments

Experiments of thinking can be defined as the “imaginary units used to test things. They can open new avenues for research and exploration. Thought experiments are powerful because they help us learn from our mistakes and avoid others in the future. It can help us understand what we want and how to get there.

Probabilistic thinking

Probabilistic thinking tries to estimate with the help of certain mathematical and logical tools. It is one of the best tools for checking the accuracy of our decisions. In a world where an infinitely complex set of variables define every moment, probabilistic thought helps us classify the most likely outcomes. When we know these, our choices can be more consistent and efficient.

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