Mental Models: Story



How might this apply to great teams and cultures?We tell a lot of stories in organizations:

How might this apply to your business?Are you creating a story that includes your stakeholders? Stories can be explicit—simple, episodic narratives. Or a story can be implied, using words that suggest conflict, a hero or other narrative elements. The most powerful stories are well-crafted visions that give significance to mundane tasks.


What story did you tell yourself about the last person you just met or came into contact with?

See Also

Commitment & Consistency, Autonomy, Authority, Affect Heuristic, Conceptual Metaphor, Priming, Framing, Periodic Events, Task Significance


In the whirl of our day-to-day interactions, it’s all too easy to forget the nuances that distinguish great teams, great cultures, and great products/services.

Mental Model Flash Cards bring together insights from psychology into an easy reference and brainstorming tool. Each card describes one insight into human behavior and suggests ways to apply this to your teams as well as the design of your products and services.

Story Bias: Stories of failure


Stories of failure tell about things that did not work. They may be stories of big failure or small, personal failure.The stories may simply tell the facts or may well also explain why the failure happened. They may also include details of the consequences for the people involved.


Failure is a form of education. Some organizations invest in a culture of learning while others punish their employees for mistakes. There is learning either way.

J.K. Rowling did a great TED talk on The Benefits of Failure.


One of the significant elements of such stories is what happens to the people involved. If they were blamed and suffered significant punishment, then this becomes a cautionary tale that warns people not to fail. The problem with this is that the real warning is not so much not to fail as not to be caught.

This can result in dysfunctional politicking where the slippery soap of blame is passed around with pointing figures that point anywhere but to the person pointing.

More positive stories tell about the learning gained and encourage reasonable failure for this purpose.