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Senge's Mental Models: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 What Are Senge's…
  • 1:08 Problems with Mental Models
  • 1:40 Using Mental Models…
  • 2:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
In this lesson, we will be learning the definition of mental models, some of its important concepts and how it relates to building an effective learning organization.

What Are Senge's Mental Models?

Peter M. Senge is known for being a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, and the founding chair of the Society for Organizational Leadership. He also is known for outlining five disciplines needed to develop a learning organization, one of which involves mental models.

According to Senge, mental models are conceptual frameworks consisting of generalizations and assumptions from which we understand the world and take action in it. We may not even know that these mental models exist or are affecting us. Mental models are an important component of Peter Senge's conception of a learning organization since you must have a command of mental models in order to effectively build a learning organization. Learning organizations are important because they facilitate and encourage learning within all levels of an organization, permitting the organization to adapt and transform in a complex environment.

Problems with Mental Models

Mental models present some significant obstacles to learning and innovation. According to Senge, mental models often limit the ways in which we think and act. If our mental models are incorrect, we will make the wrong decisions. For example, a common mental model for a production manager may be that low-level employees are lazy and that's why production goals are not being met. This mental model consists of an untested assumption and prompts the manager to ignore other possible causes of the problem.

Using Mental Models Effectively

You can overcome erroneous mental models by managing them appropriately. That means you need to discover your mental models, test each model's validity, and improve them based upon information learned from your analysis and external sources.

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