The Great Mental Models Book Summary - The Great Mental Models Book explained in key points
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The Great Mental Models summary

Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

General Thinking Concepts

4.4 (461 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

The Great Mental Models by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien is a thoughtful guide to learning how to think better and make smarter decisions through the lens of mental models. It equips readers with a toolbox of knowledge frameworks that allow for more strategic thinking and better problem-solving.

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    The Great Mental Models
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    Key idea 1 of 9

    A map is a simplified representation of a complicated reality.

    Mental models are tools that help us navigate reality. The most obvious example is a map. As familiar as it might seem, this classic navigational aid illustrates some of the basic features, benefits, and limits of mental models in general. So it’s a good place to start.

    The purpose of a map is to represent the world in a way that’s useful to us. To accomplish this purpose, a map needs to focus on certain aspects of reality while ignoring everything else. For instance, if you’re trying to navigate the London Underground, all you need is a map that shows the overall layout of the subway’s rails and stations – the information that will help you get to your destination. A simple array of lines and circles will do the trick.

    The key message here is: A map is a simplified representation of a complicated reality.

    Of course, the resulting map – that network of lines and circles – leaves out a lot of details. But that’s unavoidable. To see why, imagine trying to create a map that shows every little detail of the London Underground, right down to the nuts and bolts of the railroad tracks. Such a map would be completely impractical – way too big to fit inside your pocket, and way too complicated to help you get from point A to point B!

    So we don’t want a map to include every aspect of the reality it represents. But we also don’t want to forget that it leaves out a lot of details. Sure, many of them are irrelevant to us, like the nuts and bolts of the railroad tracks. But some of them are important to keep in mind. If you’ve ever been so busy looking down at your smartphone map that you walked straight into a lamppost, then you know this firsthand. Or if your GPS device has ever led you to a road that’s closed, then you know the importance of having a map that’s fully up-to-date.

    These lessons apply not just to literal maps, but to more metaphorical maps as well. Financial statements, policy papers, parenting manuals, even news articles – they all offer map-like simplifications of reality. A company’s financial statement, for instance, condenses thousands of transactions into a single, easily digestible document.

    These simplifications are meant to guide us through the complicated world around us. But if we forget about what they’re leaving out of the picture, and if we fail to update them as the world changes, they can also lead us astray and get us into trouble.

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    What is The Great Mental Models about?

    The Great Mental Models (2019) provides a crash course on how to upgrade your thinking and decision making. Drawing from a wide variety of disciplines, it will equip you with nine of the most essential tools for understanding and navigating the complicated world around you.

    The Great Mental Models Review

    The Great Mental Models (2019) is an insightful exploration of the models and principles that shape our understanding of the world. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Featuring a collection of powerful mental models, the book equips readers with the tools to think more effectively, solve problems, and make better decisions.
    • Backed by extensive research and real-world examples, it offers practical applications for these models, helping readers to apply them in their everyday lives.
    • With its engaging and thought-provoking content, the book captures your attention and sparks curiosity, ensuring that the topic of mental models is anything but boring.

    Who should read The Great Mental Models?

    • Decision makers
    • Analysts
    • Anyone who wants to give their thinking an edge

    About the Author

    Shane Parrish is a former cybersecurity expert who worked for the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) – an agency of Canada’s Department of National Defence. He is host of The Knowledge Project podcast and the founder of Farnam Street – an online learning community and blog. Rhiannon Beaubien is also a former member of the CSE and writes for Farnam Street’s blog.

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    The Great Mental Models FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Great Mental Models?

    The main message of The Great Mental Models is to help improve our thinking and decision-making by developing a set of mental models.

    How long does it take to read The Great Mental Models?

    The estimated reading time for The Great Mental Models is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Great Mental Models a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Great Mental Models is definitely worth reading. It provides valuable insights and practical tools for improving our thinking and decision-making.

    Who is the author of The Great Mental Models?

    The authors of The Great Mental Models are Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien.

    What to read after The Great Mental Models?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Great Mental Models, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Great Mental Models Volume 2 by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien
    • Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg with Lauren McCann
    • The Great Mental Models Volume 3 by Rhiannon Beaubien and Rosie Leizrowice
    • Clear Thinking by Shane Parrish
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
    • The Five Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird
    • Unlocking Creativity by Michael Roberto
    • Supercommunicators by Charles Duhigg
    • The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber
    • The First Rule of Mastery by Michael Gervais