The term “mental model” describes a set of ideas, conditions, or assumptions that decide how something is approached, perceived, or understood. We all have mental models that frame our approaches to understanding and solving problems.
The reason most problems don’t get solved is because we continue to try and solve them using old mental models. During times of radical change our frames of reference need to be adjusted if not radically re-engineered.
But How Do We Change Our Mental Models?
Ever wonder where people get their mental models? For the most part they get them from family influences, education, life experiences and learning from others. However today’s mental models are being changed by the behavior of the markets.
The term “markets” represented a study of sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers and the related approaches that a business could pursue to improve efficiency, relations, market share and profitability. Notice the historical emphasis has been on the study of the seller’s approaches and understandings that improve performance. Out of this thinking came management practices that have dominated the markets behavior until buyers began to change the markets behavior.
The Sellers Are No Longer In Charge
For some reason sellers have believed they controlled buyers. Some employers believed they controlled employees and suppliers. Subsequently management gurus have studied the “market” to find out what to do to get more out of what they thought they controlled: buyers, employees and suppliers; stakeholders.
Ever since the internet was born sellers have used it to listen to their customers then using those observations to create messages that attract them to value propositions and to improve processes. Some are using it to spy on their employees, leverage their suppliers and even to create marketing tricks to trap buyers.
“Markets” have moved from transaction to conversation to relationship, and from marketing to markets — from the verb to the noun form of “market.” The behavior of the “market” now represents the preferences and desires, the intangibles, of the stakeholders…not just the seller side, businesses.
The old mental models are the biggest problem to a market now driven by the buyers. Unless leaders change their mental models they will continue to not understand today’s market behavior and subsequently be unable to meet the markets demands.