The mastery of mental models, the ability to identify, test and change the images of the world that we carry within us promise to be one of the most spectacular progress of the learning organizations.
– Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
What are MM, what are they made of, how many types of MM exist and what is the role they play and the power they exert?
A MM is an undistinguished blend (mix) of facts and interpretations. It is made of four elements and exhibits one primary characteristic:
1. Interprets; acts as a context that gives meaning to what is observed: circumstances, events, relationships and people, and makes them appear as OBJECTIVE REALITY.
2. Disguises; our interpretations as objective reality by proving to be the only TRUTHFUL REALITY through explanations, justifications, collective agreements and various other means.
3. Determines; what’s possible in relation to our interpretations, (disguised as objective reality) and excludes all other possibilities deemed as the impossible, the unreasonable, the illogical, etc.
4. Dictates; our attitudes, behaviours, and actions in correlation with the interpretations appearing as objective reality.
The characteristic of a MM is to be invisible and undetectable because it disguises itself as OBJECTIVE REALITY. Facts are facts, interpretations are the story we make about facts in the form of judgments, appreciations, opinions, reasons, presumptions, etc. Facts occur in the temporality of right here and right now, interpretations occur after the fact in a different temporality. Unless facts are separated from interpretations, mental models will remains undetectable and unrecognizable.
How many types of MM exist?
There are four distinct types: Fundamental, Collective, Identity and Individual. Each type of MM plays a different role in how we perceive the world, how we create our unique perception of reality and how we enter in relation with others.
The role and power of a fundamental mental model (FMM) is to determine HOW we think and WHAT we can or cannot think about, what’s possible, and what’s impossible.
The fundamental mental model of OR
Take 2 elements such me/you. If you introduce the preposition OR in between the elements (me OR you), will create a relationship of separation, opposition leading to conflicts. The gift of separation is to give rise to a world of fragments in which each separate element can be named and have a distinct identity such as the emergence of a personal individual identity — the I am, the me, distinct and separate from everything else.
On the other hand, separateness acts as a barrier to (oneness consciousness) and connectedness with others and with the whole systemic world. Opposition gives rise to a world of conflicts (me OR you) where the only possible outcome is winning OR losing.
In a world arising from the FMM of OR, there are only two possibilities of being: (good OR bad), (right OR wrong), (truthful OR false), etc. The logic arising from this FMM — as defined by Aristotle — states that you can be one OR the other, but you cannot be both. This dictates how to think and what is possible to think in relation with this logic.
The following is a quick exercise I use during my workshops to explore this point:
Question One: Do you consider yourself to be truthful OR untruthful?
Now look back at your life experience. Have you ever lied (small lies, big lies, white lies, lies in order to not offend, not displease, not wound other people’s sensitivity etc. Yes ? (Everybody answers yes, of course)
How many times? 100 times, more than 100 times during the course of your entire life?
If you said yes, YOU ARE AN UNTRUTHFUL PERSON!
Question Two: In the course of your entire life have you being truthful 100 times, more than 100 times? (Everybody answers yes again)
If you said yes, YOU ARE A TRUTHFUL PERSON!
Conclusions: In light of your answers you are (have been) UNTRUTHFUL (AND) TRUTHFUL.
This exercise highlights several conclusions:
• The logic arising from the world of OR (rules of coherence and good sense) stating that you can only be one OR the other but not both reveals itself to be illogical and incoherent when confronted with factual reality.
• Having being truthful AND untruthful, you are NEITHER one NOR the other in particular.
Being neither this nor that is a state of NON identification; IT IS THE RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW (the state AND the place are ONE). This empty RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW is the space from which the future (free from the past) can be called into being. Within that space, the self has the power of choosing, and each choice the self make gives rise to who the self IS at that moment of choice and generates its own particular retroactive effect. By standing in the right here right now free from any (mm/judgments) about oneself or the world and having the power to choose, the self is free to recreate, reinvent itself and the world at will trough correlated actions.
When undistinguished, the role and power of the FMM of OR is to pre-determine: HOW we think, WHAT we can OR cannot think about, what’s possible OR impossible and acts as an insurmountable ceiling to accessing the creative’s stages of leadership development. By transcending the state of consciousness imposed by the FMM of OR, the self transforms and shifts to a new state of consciousness free from past identifications.
The World of OR
The Collective MM in the world of OR
The FMM of OR gives birth to collective, social, cultural, religious, scientific, political and economical MM, which all carry the same fundamental characteristics, the same seeds, at their source; separation, opposition and conflicts. All the conflicts between nations, between union and management, between individuals, etc, share the same common (systemic) source: the FMM of OR (me OR you).
The FMM of OR gives rise to a DANGEROUS WORLD where individual and collective survival is at stake. In order to survive, the acquisition of individual and collective POWER becomes essential. Religions claim the power of the truth, science claims the power of knowledge, politics claim the power of the law, and economics the power of money.
The Identity MM in the World of OR
One of the roles of society is the moral, social and cultural education of their children through the enforcement of collective MM of the times. A society imbedded in a context of separation and opposition (world of OR, danger and scarcity) share the same collective MM stemming from the FMM of OR. Society have a duty to educate their children through fear and other means consistent with predominant collective (mm) of OR. The predominant game in town in the world of OR is survival, society must then train their children to acquire individual and collective power in order to survive, to succeed, to be a winner and avoid failure and being a loser.
The world of OR acts as context that offers 2 choices of being: good OR bad, right OR wrong, just OR unjust, truthful OR untruthful, selfish OR generous, etc. Your actions, your attitudes and your behaviors will be measured against these 2 choices and will determine if you will be accepted and loved OR rejected and “demonized.”
In the world of OR, fear of personal failure is the predominant energy which acts as context that conditions the coming into being of an identity MM. Once an identity MM takes form, it will dictate individual actions, behaviors, attitudes and forms of communication. In this dangerous and fearful world, acquiring individual and collective power is essential to survival.
Individual power is necessary in order to:
• Be right and avoid being wrong
• Control and avoid being controlled
• Look good and avoid looking bad
• Dominate and avoid being dominated
Collective power can be acquired by having:
• The truth
• The knowledge
• The law
• The money and the physical power.
In a game of survival, the individual who acquires these means, tools and skills will succeed and avoid failure. This is the context (world) we were born into, trained to respond and within which we educate our children to perpetuate it. It is a world where the I/ME – who we believe we are – must survive physically, emotionally and psychologically. In order to do so the I/ME has no other choice but to fight. Within this context, others are perceived as real or potential enemies. The world of OR also acts as a developmental ceiling that prevents the possibility of being in a relation of partnership, unity and collaboration. To transcend this world view requires TRANSFORMING our way of thinking, communicating, acting and reacting stemming from the FMM of OR to the FMM of AND.
The FMM of AND
If we introduce the preposition AND between me-you (me AND you) it will create a relationship (context) of UNITY, PARTNERSHIP and COLLABORATION between the 2 elements.
The World of AND
The world of AND is a completely different world than the world arising from the FMM of OR. It is a world where opposition, conflicts, power struggles, blames, wins OR losses, and polarization in general are totally absent. Only from a context of collaboration, unity and partnership does it become possible to create powerful and sustainable team spirit. In a context of unity, partnership and collaboration the outcomes can only be WIN and WIN. The FMM of AND also dictates how we think and what we can think about, and generates its own domain of possibilities. This domain of possibilities, when looked through the lens of the FMM of OR, appears as the domain of the:
• Illogical, contrary to common sense
To think out of the box means to think out of the box of the FMM of OR, the predominant MM from which we have being trained to think, and think from the box of AND. Neither box is better, superior, or in opposition with each other; each box gives access to a different domain of possibilities. The box for generating quantum leaps is the box of AND.
Systemic thinking is the normal way of thinking stemming from the FMM of AND. Collective MM in the world of AND is an act of creation in which every involved individual WINS. It is a world where common visions are co-created that have the power to inspire and mobilize individuals towards common goals. Contrary to the idea stemming from the world of OR that the identity of a person is something fix and rigid, in the world of AND the identity is fluid, it is the expression of how the individual thinks, communicates, acts and interacts at every moment with the world.
More conclusions from my findings
1. Transformation is a cognitive and emotional process of evolution of thinking, communicating and acting from the FMM of OR to the FMM of AND.
2. The FMM of AND is the foundation that gives birth to systemic awareness, or systemic consciousness, or oneness consciousness.
3. Systemic awareness/consciousness can be defined as a meta-discipline.
4. Systemic awareness gives birth to systemic thinking and systemic solutions.
5. Mastery over fundamental, collective and identity mental models is the access to personal mastery.
6. Communication in the world of AND stand on a foundation of: Transparency, Authenticity and Integrity. The T.A.I. method of communicating combined with the Intentional Listening are indispensable practices in order to think, behave and act from the FMM of AND.
7. There are 3 FMM;
• “OR” that creates separation, opposition and conflict (WIN OR LOSE);
• “AND” that creates unity, partnership and collaboration (WIN AND WIN);
• “NEITHER this NOR that” erases all forms of identification created by MM, leaving
a boundless mind free to create; THE STATE OF AN UNCONDITIONED MIND.
About the Author
Mino Dallosto is a founding partner of the Transformational Learning Institute, Inc. His life’s passion has been about discovering how we can accelerate human and leadership development from a humanistic and transpersonal perspective. Mino’s core field of expertise is the transformation of mental models within a developmental framework. For the last 16 years he has dedicated his life as a researcher and consultant to uncovering the hidden mechanisms that dictate and regulate human behaviors, attitudes, and actions. His research has led him to uncover the key role that mental models play in shaping individual identity, group dynamics, as well as organizational culture. His deep understanding of the human mind has been instrumental in developing an innovative transformational methodology to help leaders and organizations to reach a higher level of development and effectiveness. He is the author of the upcoming book The Role and Power of Mental Models.