The Power of Impossible Thinking

Start the Book

Recognize the power and limits of mental models

Our models define our world

Running the Miracle Mile

Keeping your models relevant

Off to the Races

New Maps

Transform Your World

Dismantle the Old Order

Find Common Ground to Bridge Adaptive Disconnects

Act Quickly and Effectively

Develop the Intuition to Act Quickly

Challenging Your Own Thinking

The Neuroscience Behind Mental Models

Keeping Your Models Relevant

New Maps

The strategies described in this chapter can help you find new ways of looking at the world, but you still are challenged to know when to look seriously for new models. It took a lot of energy to set out on the journey of discovery that Charles Darwin made in the HMS Beagle. It took great time and energy for a company like IBM to put structures and business models in place that allowed it to embrace open software. You can sometimes recognize the need for this type of change by paying attention to the parts of the world that no longer fit your mental models and that help you see when your models no longer work. If you think about optical illusions, before you make the shift from one view to another, you usually focus on specific details of the picture—which then lead to a shift in view.

New models very often emerge from a crisis. Yet if you keep an open mind, become more aware of the limitations of your existing models and actively set aside time to explore other models, you can recognize the need sooner and respond more quickly and effectively in seeing a new way of seeing. If you keep a set of different models at hand, you can try out different ones in solving problems, experimenting with new approaches to see if they might work better than your existing ones.

By zooming in and out, you can gain a better understanding of the context and the specific information you need in order to act. You can see the piece of cheese and recognize that it is sitting in the middle of a trap. Both perspectives are needed to make effective decisions, particularly in a world of relentless information flows and great uncertainty and complexity.

Cultivate a process of zooming in and out as you look at any given challenge. Learn to recognize and be aware of when your vision is pulled back and focused so you can consciously change your focal point. Don’t be afraid to jump out of the stream when necessary to take a needed step back, or to plunge into a particular detail to get the specific knowledge you need in order to act. Think about ways to establish a team for a “pair programming” approach, so you can engage in zooming in and zooming out simultaneously. By means of this process, you can see where you are going and the path to get there.


Where to Buy

Wharton School Publishing

Pearson Education

Now in Paperback!

Paperback Cover

ISBN: 0131877283; Published: Jan 30, 2006