Mental models are one of the leading causes of many problems and conflicts at work. Being able to depict a simple mental model can be very beneficial in identifying and communicating how different mental models cause a challenge.
Let’s start with the definition of mental models when we are trying to identify the causes of problems and resolve them. Metal models are models that construct in one mind. They define how reality is observed, what are the main drives and preferred states that guide people’s behavior.
When trying to identify a root cause of a problem, we are spending time to collect all the mental models of the elements we identified as the domain of the challenge we try to resolve. Using interviews we manage to construct mental models of individuals and groups as part of our data collection process.
The challenge is how to depict mental models in tools and how to run a simulation that can show how mental models impact each other and the challenge. In this post, I will share how we depict mental models in http://www.InsightMaker.com. In the next post, I’ll show how you can run them as simulation.
Insight Maker has a primitive called Folder. This primitive can contain other primitives as primitives that describe agent behavior. This post explains how you can create a folder and set it to be an agent: https://ongalaxies.com/2019/12/30/creating-agent-base-models-abm-in-insightmaker-part-1/. Each person or group that is part of the scope we defined should have a folder.
Each folder should contain the following primitives: Stock, Variable, and State. We will use Stock to depict the main drive of a role/group. Variables to define the causal flow of the domain from their point of view. States to define the most important one or two states from the agent (role or group) point of view.
There shouldn’t be more than two stocks, six variables, and two states. The idea is to provide a simple high-level depiction of a mental model. The variables should be connected with positive or negative links. Stocks inflow and outflow need to be linked to variables that influence what increases or decreases the main drives. The same applies to transitions of states, they should be linked to the variables that impact them.
Last but not least, all the folders need to be connected to depict the causal impact across agents. Cros agent impacts should be defined by linking variables across agents. The example below describes four mental models of the participants in the purchasing & contracts example (https://ongalaxies.com/2020/02/07/using-causal-diagrams-stock-and-flows-diagrams-and-simulation-to-resolve-purchasing-contracts-challenge/) and how the four of them interlinked.
As you can see, reducing risk is the main drive of legal and HR in that process. Purchasing drive is reducing costs, and IT to finish projects and keep customers happy. You can also see the main states that drive each agent and how the flow (as they see it) impact drives and states.