Mental Models (Part II)

by Ron Potter

Because the first blog on Mental Models was running long, I decided to break it into Part I and Part II.

We’ll finish up the concept in this blog with:

  • Inversion
  • Occam’s Razor
  • Hanlon’s Razor and a final meaningful topic
  • So What?


In general, the inversion model is a tool to improve our thinking.  It simply means to turn our thinking upside down.  Approach the problem in reverse order.  Most of us move forward through a problem.  Inversion indicates that we should work the problem backward.  I’m also going to suggest that it can be particularly powerful to start with an end that we wouldn’t normally expect.  Or start with the conclusion that was suggested by someone that you would never have thought of or may even think it is the wrong conclusion.  However, starting with that end in mind and working back through the problem may reveal a perspective or mental model that you have never thought of or used before.

Occam’s Razor

The powerful point of Occam’s Razor is that simple solutions are more likely than complicated ones.  The fewer moving parts the better.

Hanlon’s Razor

Simply put, Hanlon’s Razor says that we should assume ignorance rather than malice.  Another way of putting this one is to assume the right explanation is the one that contains the least amount of intent.  Our human antenna picks up quickly if we think someone is making an argument simply because they have an agenda (or intent).  The least amount of malice and intent will often lead to the best solution.

So What?

I can hear many of you now saying “Ok Potter, what’s with all this drivel about Mental Models anyway?  You’ve wasted two blogs going on about something that is interesting to you but has been boring trivia to me.  So, what’s your point?”

Emotional Quotient

My answer goes back to a blog a wrote a couple of weeks ago titled Success. In that blog it was noted that there is no correlation between success and IQ but there is correlation between Success and EQ.  If you want to be successful, increase your EQ.

High EQ people have a great deal of self-awareness.  I don’t really care if you know what the mental models are or what they mean.  But I really care that you realize there are multiple, legitimate mental models and you can really limit yourself if you are ignorant of which model you use or if you believe the model you use is the only one capable of coming up with the right answer.  This last point can lead to alienation, distrust, and dislike of your teammates.

Be Self-Aware.  It’s the first step of increasing your EQ that will lead to your success.


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