Mental Models Diagrams
This course is a one-day microcosm of Indi Young’s whole advanced training cycle. It also contains new material, improved from her two published books.
As product creators, teams focus a lot on solutions, spending only a couple of days understanding the problems. Yet, it’s clear that understanding the problem deeply leads to more opportunities, new markets, and a broader understanding of the differing perspectives & philosophies you can support. Indi’s mental models & thinking-styles is a method deployed over years, fitting into your development schedule, yet providing much needed depth. It makes a great knowledge foundation for many methods like Design Thinking, JTBD, Agile, and Continuous Dual Track.
Additionally, teams suffer from external pressure to create knowledge within narrowly defined deductive approaches. The way teams are required to twist their work into this framework opens too many cracks for unconscious or confirmation bias to creep in. Mental models and thinking-styles highlight and close these cracks, allowing teams to produce knowledge that truly represents diverse and underrepresented approaches.
In this workshop, Indi will introduce how to look at problems through the lens of peoples’ purpose. You’ll learn how to decide where to gather deeper understanding, and how to listen for people’s inner thinking, reactions, and guiding principles, and how to treat this qualitative data properly. Lastly, you’ll spend time working with some mental model diagrams and thinking-styles created by Indi, so you get a chance to taste the powerful impact of deep understanding in the problem space. (the full-day workshop contains more depth than the half-day version of this workshop)
What we’ll cover:
- paying better attention to the problem – how to shift your mindset to see the blind spots
- listening deeply – the foundation for allowing diverse perspectives into your planning
- recognizing concepts – how to recognize the components of conversation (and also the key to working with “opposing” team members)
- concepts & summaries – break the data into clear, well-crafted puzzle pieces that will be easy to put together into patterns
- cultivate patterns – put the whole puzzle together to see the larger picture(s)
- thinking styles – the advantage of grouping humans by inner philosophies vs. personas and their demographics
- mental model diagram usage – aligning capabilities, gap analysis, prioritization, decade maps, job stories & characters, purpose metrics, resisting unintended consequences, embracing externalities
- supporting your stakeholders – learning their perspective in order to build relationships and give them what they need but don’t know how to ask for
Skills you will develop:
- Differentiating between different kinds of research and knowledge creation needs
- Recognizing surface vs. depth in conversation
- A personal method to practice deep listening
- A neutral mindset within your work
- Bias-resisting, bottom-up qualitative data analysis
- Making concepts stick within your org
I REALLY enjoyed the workshop and was so happy to have the opportunity to spend a day with you. Wonderful to have some of my approach to research and listening validated but even better to hear how you go deeper to pull comprehensive insights out of research. I now have more tools and techniques to make my practice better. Thank you so much!Ben Bailes, CapitalOne
paying better attention to the problem
In “western culture,” everyone is hell-bent on coming up with answers and solutions. From a tender age, kids are judged based on their knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge in homework, class activities, essays, and tests. This emphasis on solutions continues all the way up through grad school and on into team work, entrepreneurship, volunteering, mentoring, and leadership.
I’m all for solutions … we have a lot of things in our world that we can improve on. I want to see more emphasis placed on the problem. Instead of a couple of days, I want to see us spending lots more time understanding the depths, perspectives, horizons and histories of the way people achieve their purposes. Spending time opens up loads more opportunities. Branching solution paths reveal themselves. We can make solutions that truly support different people as opposed to an “average” one-size-fits-all attempt.
Plus, we’ve done a lot of damage, accidentally or in unblinking pursuit of goals. We can’t go on solving things only based on our own thin understanding of how others perceive the problem. Spending equal time in the problem space generates rich, endless understanding. Yes, having all those branching solution paths may feel daunting, but when you break it down into areas of focus over the decades, it’s a much better approach to really helping the world.
The problem space is not a part of the solution space. It should not be put into any solution cycle. It deserves more attention and a slow cycle all of its own. Organizations are starting to realize they’ve not invested enough in understanding the problem space. Mental model diagrams make up for this lack. Mental model diagrams represent the alignment between your organization’s efforts to support people (lower half of the diagram), and the reasoning and reactions of real people as they achieve a purpose (top half of the diagram). This alignment, or lack, can help your team prioritize, refine, and clarify services, audience segments, and branches. Mental models are then “decorated” with thinking-style segments and whatever other data focuses attention on areas of the diagram.
In this full-day workshop, I’ll introduce how to look at problems through the lens of peoples purpose. I’ll teach you how to decide where to gather deeper understanding, and how to listen for people’s inner thinking, reactions, and guiding principles. I’ll show you how to treat this qualitative data properly, avoiding bias, building patterns from the bottom up. And I’ll treat you to some time to play with some mental model diagrams and thinking-styles I’ve already created, so you get a chance to taste the powerful impact of deep understanding in the problem space. The workshop begins with discussion about when problem-facing exploration is needed, and when it is not. We talk about coming at this exploration from a place where you don’t care about solutions, but instead care only (for the time being) about what each person is trying to accomplish in the larger sense. The discussion then turns to the kinds of assumptions we make in business. We cover the topic of developing cognitive empathy, as opposed to applying it, and dive deep into the skills required to conduct good listening sessions. In the last part of the workshop, we touch upon the mechanics of formal analysis of the transcripts collected, comparing this formal approach to an equally useful quick approach that relies on memory instead of transcripts. We close the day by reviewing some actual data together, in the form of a mental model diagram, to find insights and discuss how to put the knowledge to use in decision-making, design, and future product strategy.