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Welcome to Plan-Perform-Score! These Insight Bites focus on ideas, thoughts, and tools to alter perspective and improve performance.
It's a Model World: Here Are 10 Traits to Watch For
Models are everywhere. From weather maps to road maps, mathematical equations to everyday language, we rely on models (miniature representations of things) to navigate our lives and our professional world. A good model can simplify complex ideas, provide meaningful insight, and communicate difficult professional concepts. We all use models but they become so intrinsic that we sometimes forget they are there and how they shape our perceptions and actions
Of course all models have their inherent limitations. It’s a good idea to pause and reflect upon them occasionally. Let’s review the 10 Traits of Models:
1. Models are not reality: A city map can lead you to some great places to eat and visit but the map is only an approximation of what the city holds; models cannot capture all the subtleties of their subjects. We forgo something for the utility of the model. As Alfred Korzbyski, a semantic theorist of the early twentieth century, explains, just as the map is not the territory, the word is not the thing.
2. Models influence our perceptions:They aid our comprehension, but that comes with a price. Robert Pirsig reminds us, “We get so used to certain patterns of interpretation, we forget the patterns are there.” Members of a profession drink the same “kool aid” and tend to view the world in the same way. There is power in a fresh perspective. Someone from outside the existing paradigm who doesn’t wear the blinders that restrict those within the model can drive profound change. Are you aware of the subtle and the not so subtle influences that pervade how you think and behave?
3. Models influence behavior:Pirsig captures it well: “When a new fact comes in that does not fit the pattern, we don’t throw out the pattern. We throw out the fact.” Keeping a healthy outlook for changing patterns and conditions is an important part of professional skepticism. Be prepared to think a bit before you throw out a fact that doesn’t quite fit. It might present a valuable insight and a wonderful opportunity.
4. Models are relative:Some models are more advantageous than others. That’s why we choose some over others. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explained space and time better than other available hypotheses. Recent corporate chicanery has led to major changes in corporate governance models. Keep on the lookout for alternative ways that might provide an improvement in your work.
5. Models are culturally influenced:There is an inherent or underlying belief structure that accompanies every discipline. People trained within the discipline begin to look at the world in the same way and have the same ingrained assumptions. This is a powerful plus, in that this can leverage the people within the discipline. The downside is the risk that some very good ideas or novel approaches get excluded because they reside outside the paradigm. Don’t forget at one time all the experts thought the earth was flat or that the Atkins diet could never lower cholesterol.
6. Models are becoming more specialized:In almost every arena models are becoming more complex and exotic compared to those from decades ago. And with complexity tends to follow more esoteric terminology which begins to close off the utility of the discipline to anyone but the experts that reside within it.
7. Models can become traps:They can limit our worldview and prevent us from thinking in a different way. Robert Pirsig relates a good story about the old South American Indian Monkey Trap. A hollowed-out coconut, which contains some rice, is chained to a stake. The hole in the coconut is just big enough for a monkey’s empty hand to go in, but not big enough for its fist full of rice to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped only by its value rigidity. It can’t bring itself to let go of the rice and capture is the result.
8. Models are sensitive to change:Models may be impacted by changes in variables. Some of the changes may be obvious and direct. Others might be more susceptible to chaotic change from subtle alterations. The accounting profession in the United States is focusing on a principles-based accounting model rather than a rules-based model that carried the danger of judging something as “technically not illegal” rather than as “the most informative disclosure available.” All models are sensitive to change and must evolve over time if they are to remain meaningful.
9. Models can be nested within other models:Morse code was a model developed to convey language via wires. Native American smoke signals were designed as a similar communications model using a different medium. Models reside within models similar to how subroutines reside with in computer programs. The more complex the model, the more likely it is that smaller, less obvious models are nestled within. Keep an awareness of this as you perform your analysis and draft your recommendations.
10. Old models die hard:Old models can continue to influence us long after they are passé. Buckminster Fuller used to marvel at how the concepts of sunrise and sunset endure some 500 years after we’ve known the earth is round. Fuller suggested the alternate terms of sunsight and sunclipse to better describe life in a post ‘flat earth” world. Are there any lingering inertia type concepts that still influence you?
An additional observation about models is that they can be Open or Closed. A closed model is restrictive and limits the flexibility of those using the model. An example might be a childhood board game like Monopoly, Sorry, or Chutes and Ladders. An open model can expand, grow and evolve as things change. An example might be Linuix Software that actively seeks creative collaborators to continue to build a robust and evolutionary information system.
Models play an important role in our lives as well as our professions. As model users, be aware of the ten traits of models and strive to keep your models relevant, useful and evolving by maintaining a healthy dose of professional skepticism. Remember, we live in a dynamic and complex world, and our models need to facilitate understanding rather than become roadblocks to knowledge.
Adapted from the article “The Use and Abuse of Models,” by Gregory F. Pashke in the September/October 2003 issue of The Futurist (a publication of the World Future Society).
Quote & Note
This is a novel, humorous and effective way to convey important information. There is always room for creativity in your communications. Consider spicing them up at times if they are getting stale, boring & predictable.
McGowan's Madison Avenue Axiom:
This captures the nuance of pricing in the marketplace. Whatever your product or service, how you price and maybe more importantly how your conveyitcan dramatically impact your performance. There are plenty of examples. Razors are typically priced very low because it's the replacement blades that drive profits. Ron Popeil built an empire on three or four easy payments. The point is to think through your offering and give it some thought.
Interview in Advisor's Edge
We are pleased to announce that Greg Pashke was interviewed as part of an expert panel for a January 2010 article in the Canadian Financial publication Advisor's Edge entitled "Gaining Knowledge in the Field." Greg was quoted in the article giving advice on professional development and career satisfaction.
Check this out: Google trends: http://www.google.com/trends
If you are curious about the current "hot searches" on the internet this is a great and fun resource. When you can't sleep at night it's a good site to visit.
We welcome your feedback on this and all issues of Plan-Perform-Score! Please e-mail your comments to: GPashke@PashkeConsulting.com
If you'd like to tour The One Page Planning & Performance System (TOPPPS) with built in scorecards and performance reports, please call Greg Pashke at (772) 528-3871 or e-mail: GPashke@PashkeConsulting.com