“The first kind of learning, which is far more common and more easily achieved, is to deepen our knowledge within an existing mental model or discipline.”
“The second kind of learning is focused on new mental models and shifting from one to another. It does not deepen knowledge in a specific model but rather looks at the world outside the model and adopts or develops new models to make sense of this broader world…Learning about new mental models is much more challenging and complex, but crucial in an environment of rapid change and uncertainty.”
This makes a great deal of sense to me, and I realise it’s so easy to get stuck in a mental model without noticing that you’re stuck. Just watch any political debate – or pub argument – and mostly you will see rigid mental models bouncing off each other.
David Bohm’s Dialogue proposal contains some deep thinking about ways to become aware of the mental models themselves. Here’s the key passage
To further clarify this approach, we propose that, with the aid of a little close attention, even that which we call rational thinking can be see to consist largely of responses conditioned and biased by previous thought. If we look carefully at what we generally take to be reality we begin to see that it includes a collection of concepts, memories and reflexes colored by our personal needs, fears, and desires, all of which are limited and distorted by the boundaries of language and the habits of our history, sex and culture. It is extremely difficult to disassemble this mixture or to ever be certain whether what we are perceiving – or what we may think about those perceptions – is at all accurate.
I’ve been thinking about collective intelligence and the idea of “group mind” – the sort of thing that many of us experience, albeit fleetingly, in teams and groups, when we sense a level of connection beyond the norm. Traditional models of group thinking seem based on me trying to cement my well-formed brick of thought to your well-formed brick. Increasingly, I find much more satisfaction in sharing the less-formed ideas and responses I have to conversations. I sense that by doing so, it’s possible to create some sense of joint intelligence that can get beyond existing mental models.
I suppose that my blogging process tends towards bricks, as I write down ideas and get to tweak and edit them and improve them, to make them more palatable to the outside world.