This post is about thinking and how mental models are useful in doing that better. More particularly, it is about the book The Great Mental Models, Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts, by Farnam Street’s Shane Parrish, et al.
Mental models are representations of aspects of how systems or phenomena work. They can be useful to help you understand and reason, to form more accurate perspectives on reality. They simplify and accentuate, they can be invaluable tools.
This book introduces the concept of mental models and discusses a small anthology of general thinking concepts. In brief:
- The map is not the territory. Models simplify. We should always care more about reality than any models that we would like to believe describe it. Reality is the ultimate test.
- Circle of competence. Perceived versus actual competence.
- First principles thinking. Understanding principles is at least as important as understanding models.
- Thought experiment. Doing in thought what he cannot practicably do without.
- Second-order thinking. Consider the consequences and their consequence of actions taken.
- Probabilistic thinking. We are playing the odds in a world full of uncertainties.
- Inversion. Solving problems by reasoning about opposites.
- Occam’s razor. Given a selection of valid solutions, simpler is better.
- Hanlon’s razor. Reasonably not assuming the worst of people.
The book is well illustrated and provides a nice set of references to supporting ideas and relevant thinkers that are worth additionally researching.
Mental models, when used appropriately, will help you think better. Better thinking leads to better understanding and better decision making. This is generally important learning to invest in, regardless of what your specialized domains may be.
If you agree with that line of reasoning, then you will probably appreciate this book and the perspectives communicated in it.
The work is yours.
If you are reading this type of book, you are probably interested in improving your thinking. Of course, reading alone will not do this for you. You have to do something with what you are reading. Interrogate, explain, try to apply it. Take your time with it.
Do the work.