Today let’s look at some examples of applying the active view of models to models you may know or from life. That is, the following examples show how someone created a model specifically not what most people see when they look at the object of the modeling.
Jack Welch’s gardening model of leadership
One of my business school leadership professors ascribed the following model of leadership to Jack Welch. I haven’t found it independently of that professor, so I’m not sure of its accuracy. Maybe it’s just my professor’s gardening model of leadership. I’ll write it as best I understand it and assume Jack Welch used it.
The model points out that a gardener doesn’t sprout vegetables themself. A gardener creates the environment and provides the resources for the plants to grow the vegetables. The gardener’s role is to choose what plants to grow; find a suitable plot of land; plant the seeds; provide water, sun, and protection from the elements; and keeps weeds from choking off the plants’ ability to grow.
Likewise, leaders don’t build the products to sell. Leaders choose what products to sell, choose what markets to enter, hire the staff, provide resources, and keep bureaucracy from choking of the employees’ ability to grow.
I only presented part of the model, but you get the idea. This model differs from other common leadership models, like command-and-control or leadership-by-example.
Let’s note first its blatant inaccuracies. People aren’t plants. Plots of land aren’t business markets. Weeds aren’t bureaucratic rules. If you measure a model by its accuracy or rightness, this model falls hopelessly short.
If you measure a model by how well it meets its purpose, the model succeeds tremendously, assuming my professor correctly ascribed it to Jack Welch. He led his company to tremendous success by the standards of the shareholders he was accountable to. Others with different models didn’t succeed as much as him.
In any case, for today’s post I point out that someone created this model actively. He created it to replace other ways of looking at the same thing.
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus
This model comes from the title and content of a book that said that at times men and women think and communicate so differently they might as well come from different planets.
Again, this model is hopelessly inaccurate. All people come from Earth.
Yet the model helps some people understand and communicate with each other. You don’t have to adopt it if you don’t want to, but many people did and likely still do. Doubtless many people didn’t adopt it who, if they had, could have had relationships more fulfilling and understanding.
Again, someone actively created this model and chose it not for its accuracy or right-ness, but for its utility. When people use it, they crowd out whatever models they used to have.
I wrote about maps as models a few posts ago. They bear repeating as quintessential active models.
Someone actively creates a map based on a purpose. The cartographer throws out information that hinders that purpose and stylizes the information that they keep, each time making it less accurate to the place being mapped. A map is good if its useful, not if it has more detail. Only the mapped terrain has all its detail.
Politics and religion
Politicians and religions create models to influence and lead people.
For example, most countries have creation stories that select which parts of their histories they want to stress. Most religions have creation stories.
Politicians motivate their populations by creating and acting on models. Examples include the domino theory, “the war on poverty,” and “you are either with us or you are against us.”
They create these beliefs and models because they work. The ones that work best endure.
No matter how objective it seems to you, your concept of reality differs from everyone else’s. What you call your reality is the collection of your beliefs about a universe you have only limited knowledge of.
People think of their concept of reality as objective, but others have different concepts, so they must be subjective.
If you consider your reality objective, you take a passive or standard view of that model. To the extent you choose your models, you take an active view of your model of reality.