Mental Model Exercises

Step 1: On an overhead or flip chart, show the following ten words: SLUMBER DREAM BED QUIET NAP Step 2: PILLOW NIGHT BLANKET PAJAMAS SNOOZE

All these words are associated with sleep. As the facilitator don’t mention this fact. Instruct participants to look at the list, but not to write anything down. After ten seconds, turn the overhead off and ask the participants to write down as many words as they can remember, without talking. Ask people to raise their hands if they wrote down the word bed. Then ask who wrote down the word blanket. Then, who wrote down the word sleep? Note how many said they saw “sleep.” After those people lower their hands, show the words again. Participants will quickly realize that sleep is not on the list.

Step 3:

DEBRIEF: Ask participants “What happened?” The point here is a simple one: How do we, in real time, become aware of the associations we are making, and check for their appropriateness? How do we develop the observer in ourselves so we more often have our thoughts as opposed to being had by them?

Step 1: Write the first word that comes to mind when you hear the following words: COLOR FURNITURE FLOWER


“set up” because they are asked to place the toothpicks flat on the table in front of them. Perhaps. we pride ourselves on our uniqueness. testing and exploring our mental models of how the world works. we may want to look for those who disconfirm our current mental models as they may be our greatest source of insight and learning. creativity and individualism. When we unconsciously continue in the same thought patterns. yet socialization is stronger than we realize. the more things look to us as if they fit our groove. the deeper the rut we create. So. Considering that there can be an underlying. Participants can work individually or in partnership. Use the remaining three toothpicks to create three new triangles by building a teepee-like structure. Some potential questions to ask: How did I “set you up” when I instructed you to put the tooth picks flat on the table? If you had a partner. This exercise helps us to see that those who did not give the typical responses may be the most potent in helping us to look outside our own mental models. test and explore our own mental models? Exercise 3: TOOTHPICK TEASER Step 1: Step 2: Step 3: Solution: DEBRIEF: Participants are. They can be called ruts and grooves. chair and rose as first or second choices] WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? (ask the group) DEBRIEF: In the West particularly. natural biological explanation that can enhance or hinder our thinking is a very powerful step toward understanding and challenging our habitual patterns of thought. 2 . Using all 6 toothpicks. There is a physiological reason for this that has to do with neurological pathways in our brains. Part of the obstacle becomes the way the challenge is presented. The cycle is a vicious one.” The more we think in a particular way.Step 2: How many said red for color? How many said blue? For furniture: How many said chair? couch? For flower: How many said rose? daisy? Step 3: [majority of the group will say red. Therefore. these grooves deepen as we reinforce those patterns. The more the grooves deepen. several key questions: Can we catch ourselves going “on automatic pilot”? How can we encourage diverse perspectives in order to surface. but a biologist would call them “neural networks. the secondary point here is that when it comes to surfacing. The solution requires them to think in 3-D. in what way did he or she encourage or discourage “out of the box” thinking? Place a box of toothpicks within reach of each person. Lay three toothpicks flat on the table to form one triangle. Ask participants to each take 6 toothpicks and place them flat on the table. we can be each other’s greatest assets. in a way. ask them to create four isosceles (equal sided) triangles.

you can instantly and clearly select among those top probabilities of 95% or better. because their experience is different. Notice how this feels. “How does that feel? What do you notice? Step 2: DEBRIEF: Link the physical analogy of feeling uncomfortable when we cross our arms in a non-habitual manner to the cognitive and emotional experiences we have when we are learning something new. There are probably sixty. We also tend to believe that the actions of another are related to us directly – even when this is not the case. Whenever a decision is necessary. Often we attribute motives to another’s actions. “Jumping to conclusions leads to contusions!” Potential questions to consider: How does jumping to conclusions impact relationships with others? If we learned to be more disciplined in identifying our unfounded assumptions. In the words of Paula Underwood. Potential questions to consider: How does our habit of staying in our comfort zone inhibit new learning? How can we make more conscious choices to stretch into new territory? The exercises above were adapted from The Systems Thinking Playbooks by Linda Booth Copies maybe be obtained from The Turning Point Foundation at 508. with one arm falling on top of the other. but if you devise six. this will sensitize you to how many there may yet be and prevent you from focusing in on the first thing that “sounds right” as The Truth.Exercise 4: ARMS CROSSED Step 1: Ask the group to do the following: “Fold your arms the way you would naturally. This is all you have to go on. how might relationships be different? Adapted from Paul Underwood: Three Strands in the Braid: A Guide for Enablers of Learning Copies may be obtained from www. The probability factor can never be 100% and never be 3 . Someone else’s probability factor will be different. Step 2: DEBRIEF: When an event happens. The Rule of Six is a discipline that opens up more possibilities for why things are happening or actions are being taken. Assign a probability factor to each explanation. the other way with the other arm on top. These probabilities will be based on your own experience.tribeoftwopress. Look at your arms and notice which one is on top.650. we are often quick to make assumptions about its meaning. devise at least six plausible explanations. Is it comfortable? Does it feel normal? Now ask the group to uncross their arms and fold them again.0138 Exercise 5: RULE OF SIX Step 1: For each apparent phenomenon.

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