Mental Models: Commitment & Consistency


How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

When we are incented to and challenged to speak and act outside their normal belief boundaries, preferably in a public way. This encourages them to change their beliefs and to be consistent with their actions. This is how Brainwashing works.

We think of brainwashing as negative but it is actually a pretty neutral concept. It happens all the time. Think of the values and mission you adopted when you joined your last company. Each day you were asked to do some small thing that you agreed with (or not) and over time, it became your truth.

When our actions differ from our beliefs or values, we need to explain this gap to ourselves. We crave routine, so we do not generally want to change our beliefs or values. Our first move is to seek external reasons for the difference. For example, sometimes people can have a hard time letting go of strong cultures even once they've moved on in their career--expecting every other organization to adopt those same strong beliefs and ways of doing things.

Change has to be incremental or the actions people are asked to take will seem too overwhelming. When people aren't taking personal responsibility for their own actions, they claim that they were forced to act as they did. They blame authority (watch out, this might be you!). This is why it is so important to "get everyone on board", make values work an ongoing part of your business management, and make the change a daily/ongoing practice.

How might this apply to your business?

People have a general desire to be (and appear) consistent in their behavior. Ask someone to state a position, declare their intentions, or show a small gesture of support. Why? Generally, people will act in a manner consistent with these small requests, even it later asked to make a much larger (but consistent) commitment. Be careful: done poorly, these will be viewed as compliance tactics.


How did you react the last time new management came in with different ideas?

See Also

Story, Reputation, Status, Sequencing, Trigger, Social Proof, Positive Mimicry


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.