Mental models are the paradigms or lenses through which we view things around us. Tension and conflict can make us feel hopeless and cause us to view a problem with a “glass half empty” mental model. Here’s a story to illustrate the power of “flipping the problem” to a “glass half full” orientation.
Two hat salesmen were dispatched to a remote region. A few days later, their supervisor received brief emails from each.
The first one read, “Please get me on the next flight home. No one here wears hats.”
The second one read: “I’m going to need more inventory. No one here owns hats!”
Mental models are the paradigms or lenses through which we view the world. Peter Senge, in his bestseller The Fifth Discipline, described mental models as “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.”
Differences in mental models, said Senge, help explain how two people can observe the same event and later describe it differently.
Because mental models often live below the level of awareness, their influence on behavior is often invisible and, therefore, unexamined.
“Flipping over” a problem into an opportunity not only exposes limiting mental models but also encourages examination of them. Sometimes this leads to fresh ideas and solutions that would otherwise have remained hidden from view.