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3 Mental models for learning L&D professionals should know about

Mental models are systems that help us function in the world. They are an explanation of a thought process — a concept, framework, or worldview that helps us understand the relationship between things. You can also refer to it as a personal belief of how the world works.

For L&D professionals, this theory is important since mental models act as guides both for perception and behaviour. Simply sending an email to everyone asking them to be creative or gathering a bunch of employees in a room with the same request might lead to some ideas but it takes a lot more to innovate.


Adopting new mental models

There are many methods to be employed in acquiring new mental models – it is important to understand that this does not mean simply learning something but fundamentally changing the way we understand the intricate workings of everything. Modern technology allows us to see and listen to people from different corners of the world, trying to see things through their eyes and draw knowledge from their experiences.


The truth about brain plasticity

For a long time it was thought that the human brain could no longer suffer modifications after a certain age. Then research proved that brain plasticity is real — even in the case of adults. This is where mental models for learning come in. They ensure that information acquirement is meaningful.

Here are 3 examples of mental models that L&D professionals should know about:


  1. The Feynman model

    One very successful mental model for learning was designed by Richard Feynman, the Nobel-winning scientist who is a frequent example for mental models. His four step method is:

    1. Identify the concept.
    2. Explain it to a toddler.
    3. Figure out the gaps and go back to the source material.
    4. Repeat until all gaps are filled.

  2. Reframing

    Another good mental model to be used in adult learning is reframing. This means making the effort to regard a certain situation from a completely ifferent point of view. It’s effective in learning when one feels that in spite of all the information and demonstrations, the brain can’t quite seem to fully grasp the concept.


  3. Circle of competence

    In corporate learning, competence and skill are very important. The Circle of Competence model has been attributed to Warren Buffett and Charlie Mungerand goes as follows:

    1. Understand the level of expertise, knowledge, and skills.
    2. Understand where the gaps are.
    3. Leave the covered areas alone and operate in those that need attention.
    4. Expand the areas of competence.

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