In my Monday morning mail, Diane asks about exercises for use in her
cross-cultural communications course for college students, and several
postings relate to various aspects of mental models in corporations.
I'd like to suggest that:
1) the mental models that hold together corporations, cliques, clubs, tribes,
ethnic groups, subcultures, societies, cultures, etc. are the optimum
organizers of the study of those various entities,
2) such models will always be variations on the comprehensive mental models
shared by the members of those largest of all systemically related
3) studying the comprehensive, "master" mental models of sociocultural
systems will put the smaller scale mental models of organizational entities
within those sociocultural systems in perspective, and provide useful
4) mental models are the optimum primary organizers of the study of all
social entitities, but they shouldn't be studied in isolation, but in
relation to those entities' physical environments, demographics, and patterns
of action. All are constantly interacting. For example, a group's mental
model of acceptable communications paths, it's size, and its actual patterns
for communicating will be inextricably bound together. Change any one of the
four and the whole system changes. (It's my view that two of these
four--mental models and patterns of action--are inherently static and
stability producing, and that the other two--demographics and
environment--are inherently dynamic, generate system instability, and drag
the other two along. This lead/lag leads either to system adaptation, or to
disintegration. [e.g. the company's new Email system/environment begins to
be used to REALLY communicate/pattern of action between all system members.
At that point, either the mental model changes, or management imposes rigid
E-mail rules, begins to monitor, and it's the beginning of the end]).
If anyone's interested and has access to it, my idea of the general
configuration of Western society's comprehensive model of reality appears
on page 31 of the Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development's
1995 Yearbook (ASCD, 1250 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.) as part
of an article.
For instructional purposes, I'm a believer in students figuring out a
social entity's mental model for themselves. I simply ask, "What is it
that it's important to know to understand an integrated human group?" To
keep this intellectually manageable, I'll begin by having participants
deal only with immediate reality (the room and what's in it). I suggest
that, if they can put together a descriptive/analytical model for that,
it'll probably be useful in organizing the study of larger scale entities.
Later, I might dump on them a great, random pile of raw data generated by
the entity being studied, and have them try to mesh it with their work.
Note: I see the failure of academia to deal adequately with macro-scale
mental models as a consequence of the assumption that nations rather than
sociocultural systems are the appropriate entities for the study of
history, politics, economies, etc.) The mere drawing of a political
boundary around people doesn't make of them a coherent focus for study.
-- Marion Brady GMBrady@aol.com