Tag Archives: mental model

How mental models block innovation: The case of Alzheimer’s disease

No progress has been made to cure Alzheimer’s disease since it was first discovered in 1906. Why? Not for lack of investment, but because doctors remain stuck in wrong mental models.

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Should you encourage your employees to take risk to innovate?

General management’s injunction to employees to take more risks to innovate usually has no effect. This is because what blocks innovation is not lack of risk taking but counter-productive mental models.

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Is Meta the new Kodak? Eight history lessons on the necessity and risks of big innovation bets

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is doing badly. The announcement of its poor results was very badly received by the stock market. The company lost 25% of its value in one day. The weakness of Facebook and the doubts about the relevance of the colossal investment made in the metaverse, a system creating a virtual world, question the strategy of the company. The weakness of the legacy activity, and the difficulty to launch a new activity, the situation of Meta is not unlike that of Kodak twenty years ago. A look at the history of the major bets made by companies to launch or renew themselves is useful to better understand the issues facing Meta and avoid hasty judgments.

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Do you need to build a cathedral to give meaning to your employees’ work?

Our era is in search of meaning; at least that is what we hear over and over again in companies and in society as a whole. The absence of meaning leads to disengagement, and the human resources departments of large companies are engaged in a great race to “recreate meaning” under the leadership of visionary leaders. The idea is that an ambitious vision, a noble purpose, a great narrative, will give meaning to wandering souls. This idea is illustrated by a famous tale, that of the stonemason who builds a cathedral, motivated by something greater than himself. However attractive it may be, this tale plays on questionable beliefs, and the fact that it has become a reference for motivational seminars is regrettable. In fact, it is not necessary to build a cathedral to give meaning to one’s work.

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In uncertainty, be a vulnerable leader

Decision-making in uncertainty is a difficult art. One of the reasons is that the tools and concepts we use are, for the most part, design for risk, i.e. for clearly defined and repeated situations. Such tools assume that uncertainty is something to protect against. This mental model of protection, which seems so logical, is in fact counterproductive. What if, on the contrary, we should not protect ourselves (too much) from uncertainty?

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The three (wrong) reasons why you want to motivate your employees in uncertainty

We live in a world marked by uncertainty and punctuated by major surprises that call into question many of our beliefs. This questioning can be very anxiety-provoking as it seems that we can no longer rely on anything stable to move forward in life. This is particularly true in companies: the situation can go as far as a form of paralysis, caused by the feeling that whatever we undertake, an unforeseen event will call everything into question. This can lead to a loss of motivation. And yet, there is no reason why uncertainty should be demotivating.

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How crises disrupt our mental models and what that means

The Covid-19 epidemics constitutes a major event that completely disrupted world life, rendering all forecasts and plans based on them obsolete within a few weeks. The very nature of a surprise is to bring to light an element of our mental models and invalidate it. In short, crises disrupt our mental models. Because a disruption is a process, the effects unfold progressively, on many dimensions, and over a long period.

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It’s the economy, stupid! Europe’s strategic dilemma after Ukraine

[Version in French here]

The invasion of Ukraine is a rude awakening for a Europe that had been asleep for many years in a naive idealism. If the response to the invasion was quick, Europe remains very weak. Beyond the next few weeks, its strategy must involve a profound change of mental model for its economic development.

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Ukraine: the cosmological episode of Europe

[Version in French]

It takes a brutal shock to bring a dreamer back to reality. This is what has just happened to Europe with the invasion of the Ukraine, a transformative event which has led to a questioning of fundamental mental models. Will Europe finally get real?

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Covid-19: How Crises Disrupt our Mental Models and What That Means

[Version française ici]

The coronavirus constitutes a major event that completely disrupts world life, rendering all forecasts and plans based on them obsolete within a few weeks. The very nature of a surprise is to bring to light an element of our mental model (deep beliefs that guide our actions) and invalidate it. Our model told us that the world was going in direction A, but it turns out to be going in direction B and we are surprised. This surprise can have more or less serious consequences. Most of the time the reaction will be to dismiss it. When there is a difference between reality and our beliefs, we try at all costs to maintain the latter by inventing all sorts of reasons to minimize the meaning of surprise; it is a matter of integrity because our mental models are constitutive of our deep identity: how we see the world is also how we see ourselves, and how we are in the world. With the coronavirus, learning to manage our mental models has become critical.

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