• Mental models – Test yourself: Are there people you dislike most?

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    ARE you aware you not only dislike, but abhor even the shadow of someone? Would you know exactly why? It’s due to our mental models.

    Mental models are our “deeply ingrained assumptions, attitudes and beliefs that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. The discipline of mental models is learning to unearth our internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny to see how they shape our actions and decisions.” (Peter Senge Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton and Art Kleiner (2000) Schools That Learn Annex- Copyright © 2000 Peter Senge).

    In our conversation some Fridays ago, we discussed personal mastery as one in a composite set of five disciplines providing us the language and process in introducing second order change. By second order change, we refer to introducing change that is not surface, not cosmetic but systemic and irreversible. Personal mastery instils in us the habit of continuously learning to assess current reality relative to how we are progressing toward the change we pursue, the reality we desire. Mustering ourselves becomes a habit of mind and which rules our decisions. (Although there are times we let the heart over-rule the mind!) Experts say it’s the mental models we have – the thought process we have about reality, the pictures we have of the real world, the interrelationships, what effect a cause would have, such as when we say, the rich become richer, the poor become poorer. Given this mental model of the world, would cause one to accept his or her miserable lot, hence it shapes one’s behavior which dictates his particular approach to solving problems.

    Mental models provide us with stable representation of reality in the midst of uncertainty. When deeply entrenched in our thought, these mental models are not easy for us to change. This is why it is not easy to change habits of mind. It is personal mastery that can help us change our assumptions because we continue to learn. We muster our minds; hence, we can distance ourselves from our mental models and enable us to critique, clarify and improve them and change our decisions and behavior so we can arrive at the change we desire. In simple words, our minds are open to a new model.

    In referring to mental models, Jay Wright Forrester wrote that “The image of the world around us, which we carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagines all the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts, and relationships between them, and uses those to represent the real system.”

    In detail, mental models consist of our beliefs, ideas, images, and verbal descriptions that we consciously or unconsciously form from our experiences. For example, children exposed to a disruptive relationship such as of their parents are likely to develop negative pictures about marriage.

    These representations of perceived reality guide our thoughts and actions; explain cause and effect to us. They lead us “to expect certain results, give meaning to events, and predispose us to behave in certain ways.” Somehow our mental models provide internal stability in a world of continuous change.”

    However, they could also lead us wrong in that “they also blind us to facts and ideas that challenge or defy our deeply held beliefs. They are, by their very nature, fuzzy and incomplete. And everyone has different models (that differ in detail from everyone else’s) of the same concept or subject, no matter how common or simple.” Read more: < http://www. businessdictionary.com/definition/mental-models.html#ix zz 3mjQVOovy>.

    Having said this, let’s have this vignette:

    Maria and Jose are sweethearts living in separate islands; the waters between the islands teem with crocodiles. Only one commercial launch was available plying every fortnight between the islands. Once, many days before the fortnight, Maria had to see Jose for an urgent matter. So Maria had to go see Pedro (once, Maria’s suitor) who lived at the far end of the island and owner of the only private launch. Maria requested Pedro to have the latter’s launch bring her to Jose to which Pedro acceded but on one condition: that Maria sleeps with Pedro. On reaching the island many days before fortnight, where Jose lived, Maria was asked by Jose how the trip was made possible. Maria replied that she crossed to where Jose lived using Pedro’s launch. Jose exclaimed how come Pedro was so generous! Maria revealed to Jose that Pedro asked her to sleep with Pedro. This revelation made Jose terribly mad at Maria. End of vignette.

    How would you rank the three persons as to who is the most and the least evil? Your ranking suggests your mental model about people. Ranking Pedro as the most evil means you tend to most dislike people na walang utang na loob (no feeling of debt of gratitude); if you chose Jose as the most evil, this means you hate people who readily take advantage of those in need; if Maria, this means, you disdain people who choose any means (no matter how unethical) to pursue a specific gain. (But you know that the end does not justify the means!)

    There are mental models, too, relating to business.<Read more: http://www.business dictionary. com/definition/mental-models.html#i xzz3mjYsTL1x> Introducing change will need revising one’s mental models, one’s paradigms and personal mastery can help one improve or revise one’s mental models.

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    TeresitaTanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent as its Dean of Graduate Studies for ten years. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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