Mental Models: Appropriate Challenges

WE DELIGHT IN CHALLENGES, ESPECIALLY ONES THAT STRIKE A BALANCE BETWEEN OVERWHELMING AND BORING.

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How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

Easy is overrated. Turn some tasks into challenges or contests. Research shows we are happiest when faced with something challenging (but not too overwhelming). The “challenge” can be designed into a system like reaching monthly numbers or created by reflecting someone’s personal best (or average) performance in an area.

How might this apply to great products?

A designed challenge can be heavily constructed (game design) or merely suggest an intriguing, unsolved problem. Performing at increasing levels of difficulty require the retrieval of existing knowledge and the challenge of applying that information to new situations or contexts.

Consider

How many times do we simply repeat what we know? How many times do we really generalize our learning to new contexts and invest time in focusing on deeper learning to generate more creative and effective solutions for real-world problems?

See Also

Curiosity, Status, Surprise, Set Completion, Competition, Repudiation, Feedback Loops

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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.

Mental Models: Feedback Loops

WE ARE ENGAGED BY SITUATIONS IN WHICH WE SEE OUR ACTIONS MODIFY SUBSEQUENT RESULTS.

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How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

Feedback loops are simple to understand: you produce something, measure information on the production, and use that information to improve production. Every step in the process generates information. Enterprises can use such information to increase their efficacy across a variety of segments.

How might this apply to great products?

Does your system respond immediately to user input? Or can you allow people to play with the information, turning a status message into an interactive one? Use numeric data to show people how they are doing, or translate data into analogous visual information. Feedback can be immediate, in the form of a quick challenge, or delivered at a later date as a monthly report.

Consider

What systemic issues cause the most complaints? how do various population segments make their concerns known? what departments receive the most complaints? how quickly does the business solve problems on average?

See Also

Visual Imagery, Appropriate Challenges, Shaping, Sequencing, Periodic Events, Status, Achievements.

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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.

 

Mental Models: Anchoring & Adjustment

When making decisions, we rely too heavily—or anchor—on one trait or piece of information.

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How might this apply to great teams and cultures?
In unfamiliar situation, we tend to evaluate things based on a single data point, or known anchor. From here we draw conclusions and  make relative adjustments. These anchors are often a numeric value, such as one’s review score or a promotion ratio.

How might this apply to great products?
The original price or a single attribute such as the amount of memory on a laptop or cell phone. Oddly enough, even the suggestion of a completely irreverent number can influence subsequent numeric predictions.

What anchors are you intentionally—or unintentionally—providing people?

Consider
What challenges — tied to desired behaviors — do you have in place?

See Also
Priming, Conceptual Metaphor, Framing

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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.

Mental Models: Contrast Effect

WHEN SCANNING NEW VISUAL INFORMATION, WE ARE UNCONSCIOUSLY DRAWN TO THINGS THAT STAND OUT AGAINST THEIR SURROUNDINGS.

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How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

We enhance or diminish others in relation to our perception of normal. It shows up in how we interact with, partner with, or seek others out.

How might this apply to great products or services?

Colors, size, shapes and other design elements are used to create visual contrast. Subtle movements on an otherwise static page catch people’s attention. Contrast can also be felt over time (an irregular e-mail notification vs. a daily notification) or through unusual and unexpected content or experiences.

Consider

Think about what qualities you want people to focus on for talent, for culture, for cultivating creativity, etc.--and, how you are willing to support those qualities to succeed.

See Also

Chunking, Juxtaposition, Proximity, Uniform Connectedness

   

Mental Models: Authority Principle

We want to follow the lead and advice of a legitimate authority.

How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

When communicating an idea that you want to see taken up by others, demonstrating authority in some way will give you more credibility in the eyes of your audience, and enable them to make a decision much more easily as the decision will feel less risky. Remember the reverse — if a figure of authority is stating that your idea is not the way to go, your audience is likely to listen to that statement. You need to be aware of this before communicating your message, so do your research and try to understand what authority positions in the market are saying.

How might this apply to great products?

To some extent, we all look for guidance and direction. Following a perceived leader has real benefits as it means you don’t have to spend time and energy figuring things out for yourself — you can just copy, learn from them, or obey and get the benefits. First to market gives authority. So does best quality.

Consider

How well does your product, service or organization lead people through an experience? Does that experience communicate confidence, quality and assurance? Are there options in your application that could be made at a design level on behalf of users? In an uncertain or new space, is there the presence of a formal authority figure (or brand) to reassure people?

See Also

Social Proof, Contrast, Limited Choice, Autonomy, Sequencing

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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.

Mental Models: Set Completion

THE CLOSER A COLLECTION IS TO BEING COMPLETE, THE MORE WE DESIRE COLLECTING ALL THE PIECES.

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How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

When something is certain and known then we feel comfortable and in control. When something is not complete, we cannot close that item in our mind as we have to keep thinking about it. This maintenance activity adds effort and leads to predictions that might give us cause for concern. This is the basis for the need for completion, and we will, therefore, seek to close off things that we do so we can forget them and move on to the next item of interest.

Some people have a particular need for completion and in teams will be the person who makes sure all jobs are done (often doing the jobs themselves). People who compulsively tidy up are "completer-finishers" as they see untidiness as a step before the completion of tidiness. Contrast this with people who are not completer-finishers and who will happily start something but will be unlikely to see things through to the end.

How might this apply to your business?

What can people collect in your system? How can these be organized into discrete sets to provide easier, achievable goals (and the motivation to continue completing the larger collection)? This principle also applies to incomplete puzzles or pictures—we desire to see the whole image completed. Look for logical groupings (like kinds of information) that can suggest set completion.

Consider

Are you a completer or a starter? What gaps do you seek to close? How do you leave things for people to complete. Start a sentence and see if they will complete it for you -- if they do, you have put the other person into the completer-finisher position. This can be a powerful tool in changing minds.Even if they do not verbally complete the sentence, they will do so in their minds. Watch their body language for signs of what they might be thinking.Likewise, you can use completion in physical tasks. Start something and give it to another to complete. Give rewards for completion, particularly if you have no completer-finishers who will end the job for you.

See Also

Chunking, Curiosity, Achievements, Collecting, Variable Rewards, Pattern Recognition, Status, Gifting, Reputation

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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.

 

Mental Models: Commitment & Consistency

WE DESIRE TO ACT IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH OUR STATED BELIEFS AND PRIOR ACTIONS.

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.

Consider

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

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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.

 

Mental Models: Aesthetic-Usability Effect

AESTHETICALLY PLEASING DESIGNS ARE OFTEN PERCEIVED AS BEING EASIER TO USE.

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How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

In organizations, we can be forgive of personality flaws if someone is unusually talented. This aesthetic-usability effect can mask leadership problems and can prevent confrontation of a toxic climate if the lived values of the organization favor results above all else.

How might this apply to great products?

Attractive things work better—or at least we perceive them as being easier to use. Have you evaluated how attractive your application (or site) is to your users? We are more forgiving of attractive designs and assume they are (or should be) easier to use. The curious part? A well-designed site is often a more usable site.

Consider

Identify instances of the aesthetic-usability effect in your organization by watching how managers confront or don't confront bad behavior, we well as listening to what they say.

See Also

Affect Heuristic, Visual Imagery, Sensory Appeal

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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.

 

Mental Models: Status

WE CONSTANTLY ASSESS HOW INTERACTIONS EITHER ENHANCE OR DIMINISH OUR STANDING RELATIVE TO OTHERS AND OUR PERSONAL BEST.

How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

Fear of losing power, fear of losing status, fear of losing rewards, fear of the unknown; fear of undermining credibility, fear of our own ignorance and, fear of how people with different opinions will change the ways we do things around here.Further, dominant groups in an organization in relation to gender, race, nationality, as well as, dominant ways of working, are all motivated to maintain the status quo.

How might this apply to great products?

Are you providing feedback loops and measures to let people know how they are doing? Status is personal—an assessment of our standing relative t others (income, performance, etc.). Status can also be public (scoring, recognition, etc. ). However, studies show that a threat response kicks in when our status seems jeopardized; take care to measure only those things linked to desired behaviors. Also use status to reinforce new skills.

Consider

Dominance amounts to power. Why would you want to give your power away or even share some of it?

See Also

Competition, Reputation, Appropriate Challenges, Feedback Loops, Need for Achievement

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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.

 

Mental Models: Value Attribution

WE VALUE THINGS WHEN THEY COST MORE.

How might this apply to great teams and cultures?

Our behavior is a function of our perceptions. More specifically, when we observe others behave in a certain way, we ask ourselves a fundamental question: Why? Why did they fail to meet the deadline? Why did they get the promotion? Why did a manager or mentor help you when you needed it?

The answer we give is the key to understanding our subsequent behavior. If you believe that a mentor helped you because they are a nice person, your action will be different from your response if you think that they helped you because your boss pressured him to.

How might this apply to your business?

“Cost” may be monetary or an investment of time. Is your product or service priced accordingly? What items can you withhold until they are earned—perhaps a new feature or privileges? On pricing pages, offer a range of packages and highlight—or at least offer—a more expensive one than you think most customers would choose.

Consider

A colleague failed to meet a deadline. Do you invest in them and help them finish their work? Do you give them the benefit of the doubt and place the blame on the difficulty of the project? Or do you think that they are irresponsible? Reflect on your responses and understand what they say about your perspective.

See Also

Story, Framing, Anchoring & Adjustment, Limited Access

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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.