Two Words - Mental Model
Indi Young  

Mental Model Building: Step by Step

August 12th, 2005 by Indi Young :: 7 Comments

Indi Young is a co-founder of Adaptive Path where she helps clients create mental models and derive useful tools and clean navigation. Before Adaptive Path, she consulted on her own for 10 years. She was formerly a software engineer. She is the least-public member of Adaptive Path, leaving the limelight to more vocal members.

A year ago I was casting about for a new example to use in my mental model presentations. I wanted something that was more globally applicable than a kitchen remodel, which was our old example at Adaptive Path. (Imagine someone living in a tiny Tokyo apartment trying to make sense of the task flow supporting the planning around custom kitchen cabinets!) I wanted a topic that was engaging, so that people would be interested. I wanted an example I could present to information architects in India or Thailand, should the time come.

##Mental Model Diagrams
But first, let’s take a step back. What is a mental model? My mental models are diagrams that represent the thought- and action-process used to achieve a set of goals in a narrowly defined scope. For example, you could draw a mental model of what you do in the morning to get ready for work. You could interview other people and add their approach to the mental model diagram as well. Different kinds of people might employ different steps, like a mother might include getting the kids ready for school in her morning routine, whereas a teenage girl might include three trips back to her wardrobe to change clothes to match her mood. You could interview people from other cultures in other countries to see what task differences there are.

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