Mental models are how the brain makes sense of the vast amount of information to be processed every moment of every day. They are the lens through which we see the world.

Shifts in mental models go deeper than traditional thought leadership. Most thought leadership tries to establish a company as an expert within the existing mental model. Shifts in thinking challenge the prevailing model.

To put the power of mental models to work in your business, start with three steps:

A. Identify the shift

The first step is identifying the underlying shift in thinking. This is different than your value proposition. It’s an assumption (usually unconscious) about how the world works.

To find the shift, ask yourself a few questions. What was the original insight that led to the innovation? Where do you feel people “don’t get it” about your solution? What is the “aha” moment when someone turns from disinterested to enthusiastic?

Try to frame it as a From and a To. This is not about bad to good, just better for the current context.

B. Find the sticking point

Next, determine how mental models are getting in the way of your success. The sticking points are usually in one of three areas. You can tell which one by the associated symptom.
PRESENT: The model of how things work today. Do people fail to see a problem that seems obvious to you? If so, they are operating with a different model of the current state. This is often because they don’t see how things are related. If you are trying to get people to see a problem or opportunity, focus on disrupting their existing mental model.
FUTURE: The model of how things could be in the future. Do people recognize the problem, but fail to see how your solution could solve their problem? If you are trying to get people to understand the benefits of your solution, focus on shifting their thinking in a way that reveals why your solution would be effective.
TRANSITION: The model for how to bring a new future into being. Do people recognize the problem, and the value of your solution, but fail to make the change? Sometimes people recognize the need to jump from the trapeze bar they are on, and can see the merits of the new bar you are offering them, but feel they can’t make the jump. So, define a roadmap that explains to them how to get from where they are to where they want to go.

C. Build the program

Shifts in thinking don’t happen overnight, any more than going to a weekend yoga workshop makes you flexible. Think of it like learning a second language or building a new habit – in this case a mental habit. People need to see how the new way of thinking plays out in different contexts and situations.