We can only make decisions based on the information and models available to us

“People can only make decisions given the information that is available to them in the structure they are able to operate” — James Paine, MIT Sloan School of Management, System Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World.

A big part of systems thinking is drawing out peoples’ mental models to connect different ways of seeing the world in the same structure. This allows us to test and learn from simulation and feedback how the bigger system works, uncover behaviors and outcomes one person or a few might have missed.

Paine suggest that to draw out another persons mental model is like walking up to them and saying:

“I know the decisions you are making are the best decisions to make based on the information you have right now. I want to know why. I want to build a model of your mental process that when we run it and I look at it it makes complete sense. And then take that model and pop it into the context of a larger system to study how those decisions are coming back and affecting the outcome.”

At MIT’s System Thinking group this mindset is so fundamental that on a board in their group room the following is written:

“We believe that everyone in this community is intelligent and capable, cares about doing their best, acts with integrity, and wants to learn.”

(The lecture in the video below starts at 11min)

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