I've been reading The Power of Impossible Thinking: Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business by Yoram Wind and Colin Crook (a complete review probably this week at 800-CEO-READ blog). It's all about mental models. The Chinese philosophy based on the I Ching and later the Tao Te Ching I recently mentioned is a completely 180 degree shift in thinking - an entirely different mental model - than anything taught in Western educational systems or reinforced by Western society. It's not necessarily going to make sense right away unless you've been very curious and dwelved into it before.
And that's ok. Rilke, as many poets before and after him, was in tune with this philosophy advises us not to get worried about understanding it all now. I must admit it took me nearly ten years, but then again I was not serious for a long time. One day the 'effortless' quality underpinning the philosophy could not escape my attention because I was finally sick and tired of struggle; 'effortless' had a nice ring to it. I Ching is Chinese for the Book of Ease, and it also means the Book of Change. Hmm, change equates to easy - now this I have to check out.
[H]ave patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. - Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903, Letters to a Young Poet
I'm still in process of reading Confronting Reality by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. The central message to business leaders appears to be: Who do you think you're fooling? You're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I'm not far enough along, but I think it offers some clues in adapting new business models and systems and even a chapter on mental models as well entitled Looking Around Corners. The Power of Impossible Thinking tackles nothing but mental models.
Studies in neuroscience indicate that the sense we make of external things is based in small part on what we see outside and in large part on the patterns located in our mind...American neurophysiologist Walter Freeman discovered that the neural activity due to sensory stimuli disappears in the cortex. Our eyes and ears are constantly gathering information, but our mind is not really processing all of it. This stimulation flows into the brain, where what seems to be an internally related pattern appears, which the brain uses to represent the external situation.....
The brain takes in the information about the world through the senses and then discards most of it, using it principally to evoke a parallel world of its own. Each brain creates its own world, which is internally consistent and complete. Perception is not a linear process of information reception, processing, storage and recall. Instead it is a very complex, interactive, subjective and evocative process....
This does not mean that the external world does not exist (although philosophers have argued that point), but only that we ignore much of it. Most of what we see is in our minds. - The Power of Impossible Thinking
The book also goes on to talk about two types of learning:
- "The first kind of learning, which is far more common and more easily achieved, is to deepen our knowledge within an existing mental model or discipline."
- "The second kind of learning is focused on new mental models and shifting from one to another. It does not deepen knowledge in a specific model but rather looks at the world outside the model and adopts or develops new models to make sense of this broader world...Learning about new mental models is much more challenging and complex, but crucial in an environment of rapid change and uncertainty."
This is also what Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad Poor Dad series of books, is trying to hammer home. His main message is the rich have an entirely different mental model - that's how they became rich -than the poor or middle class. He stresses the importance of learning to stretch ourselves through training that changes our context (or, mental models) rather than heaping on more content training.
What I try to do with this blog - which I admit is not the best format for it - is to additionally present a third type of training. I also toss out a lot of mental models that fits the second type of training - think of it as kind of like a mental model fashion show.
I actually prefer to talk about techniques whereby you can drop (as much as possible) models altogether and perceive with total clarity. You aren't donning my mental model, or theirs, or anyone's -- not without total awareness. Just switching from one mental model to the mental model du jour isn't the ticket nor will it enable you to make the next switch, and the next and the next fluidly and from a place of personal integrity. You must be the master that actively flows from one to another consciously aware that it is a model.
This is the third type of training where the models are simply tools - just a wardrobe you plucked from the fashion show - rather than the playwright of your life. So if your mind hurts a little reading my posts, that's a good thing (yikes, I'm sounding like Martha).