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 transformation

DescriptionTransformation stories tell about how individuals, groups and entire organizations went through deep and fundamental change, transforming from one state to another.A common structure to this story is:

  • Before, we were happily blind, not realizing the difficulties. Then something happened and we realized that we could not stay where we were.

  • The transformation was a difficult journey and some did not make it.

  • Looking back it was all worth it. Now things are much better. Our future, looking forward, is bright.

ExampleThere is no one else in the corporate world who has so taken to heart the essential lessons of sustainability — and then put them into practice. "From my experience, it's a false choice between the economy and ecology," says Ray Anderson. "We can have both — and we have to have both."Anderson came to green passions relatively late in his business life. He'd started Interface from scratch in 1973, and by the mid-1990s built it into a major player, generating nearly $1 billion a year in revenues. The environment wasn't on Anderson's radar screen; Interface complied with government regulations, but never went further. But in the 1990s, customers started asking him about the environmental impact of his business, and in 1994 he read a book called The Ecology of Commerce by the environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken, which criticized the tremendous waste in much of industry. "It was a spear in my chest."DiscussionLike caterpillars and butterflies, transformation involves a deep change that leads to people emerging very different from when they entered the process.Transformational stories often use the metaphor of a journey, often an adventurous one with hardships along the way.