Mental models I like

When we were doing founder dating, IS prompted me with this question: “How do you arrive at your convictions? What are some key mental models you use to be creative, solve problems, or make decisions?”

I haven’t thought about this much so explicitly, but feel like I like and rely on a few mental models that I could catalog. Here are a few, grouped by broad categories of beliefs I hold.

Be wary of over-optimization

Think before you act

Things are complex

Complex adaptive systems: You can’t solve -- or even understand -- major problems by looking at individual agents in isolation. Almost everything is a CAS: economies, societies, companies, climate, even us humans. Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows writes a lot about this.

The map is not the territory: Reality is far too complex and expansive for the human mind to comprehend without a bit of help, so we use representations that abstract and simplify that reality in order to orient ourselves. We can think of reality as “territory” and those representations as “maps.”

Fake frameworks and multiple lenses: ways of seeing the world that are probably or obviously wrong in some important way can still be useful.

Feedback loops: In a feedback loop, even tiny increases and decreases can quickly spin up into exponential booms and busts.

Binary thinking is often wrong.

Prediction is hard

Futurists are often wrong, cf. energy predictions in Profiles of the Future by Arthur Clarke

Good things are rare

Argue honestly and think clearly

Sometimes it's better together



Lindy effect


Last edited March 2022