Big fat list of Mental Models

This is a collection of mental models I've read about. Makes for a good master reference for the times I'm always stuck in Déjà vu thinking "what's the term?". I will grow, evolve and categorize this list largely trying to understand / answer "what can I do to minimize negative externalities?", a meta-mental model for decision making in life.

This is a fat list and the purpose is not to memorize these. Instead, consciously aiming to learn them, utilize them as much as possible to fit things happening around into a model. This is reductive and simplifying, but that is precisely what models are for - to allow us focus on things that matter without the unnecessary details.

We don’t become better at things we do – we become better at things we pay attention to while we’re doing them

  • Inverse Thinking - be wrong less

  • Arguing from first principles

  • Minimum Viable Product

    • de-risking - weed out untrue assumptions

    • premature optimization

  • Occam's razor - as simple as it can be, but no simpler

    • conjunction fallacy - latching on to unnecessary assumptions

    • overfitting

  • Frame of Reference

    • framing

    • nudging

    • anchoring

  • Availability Bias

    • filter bubble

    • echo chambers

  • The Third Story

    • most respectful interpretation - benefit of the doubt

    • Hanlon's razor - malice vs carelessness

    • fundamental attribution error

    • self-serving bias

    • veil of ignorance

  • Birth lottery

    • just world hypothesis

    • victim-blame

    • learned helplessness

  • Paradigm Shift

    • Semmelweis reflex

    • confirmation bias

    • backfire effect

    • disconfirmation bias

    • cognitive dissonance

    • thinking gray

    • Devil's advocate position

  • Intuition

    • proximate cause

    • root cause

    • optimistic probability bias

  • Tyranny of small decisions - "death by a thousand cuts"

    • tragedy of the commons

    • public goods

    • herd immunity

  • Externalities (internalizing negative externalities)

    • spillover effects

    • Coase theorem - "property rights, rational actors, low transaction costs"

    • cap-and-trade

  • Asymmetric information

    • Moral Hazard

    • Principal-agent problem

    • adverse selection

  • Market failure

    • government / political failure

  • Goodhart's law

    • perverse incentives

    • cobra effect

    • Sreisand effect

    • hydra effect

  • Observer effect

    • chilling effect

    • collateral damage

    • blowback

  • Boiling frog

    • short-termism

    • technical debt

    • path dependence

  • Preserving optionality

    • precautionary principle

  • Hick's law

    • Information overload

    • analysis paralysis

    • perfect is the enemy of good

    • reversible / irreversible decisions

    • paradox of choice

    • decision fatigue

  • Murphy's law

  • North star

  • Compound interest

  • Two-front wars

  • Opportunity cost

    • opportunity cost of capital

    • best alternative to negotiated agreement

  • Leverage

    • Pareto principle

    • power law distribution

  • Law of diminishing returns

    • Law of diminishing utility

    • negative returns

    • burnout

  • Present bias

    • net present value

    • hyperbolic discounting

  • Default effect - path of least resistance

  • Parkinson's Law

  • Hofstadter's Law

  • Loss aversion

    • sunk-cost fallacy

  • Design pattern

    • anti-pattern

    • brute force

    • heuristic

    • black boxes

    • parallel processing

    • divide and conquer

  • Economies of scale

  • Reframe the problem

  • Natural selection

  • Scientific method

  • Inertia

    • strategy tax

    • Shirky principle

    • Lindy effect

  • Momentum

    • catalyst

    • forcing function

    • activation energy

    • flywheel

  • Homeostasis

    • Chatelier's principle

  • Hysteresis

  • Critical mass

    • tipping point

    • chain reaction

  • Technology adoption lifecycle - innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards

  • Metcalfe's law

    • network effects

  • Butterfly effect

    • luck surface area

    • entropy

  • Black-and-white fallacy

    • in-group favoritism

    • out-group bias

    • zero-sum

    • win-win

  • Grass-is-greener mentality

  • Maslow's hammer

  • Cost-benefit analysis

    • Sensitivity analysis

  • Garbage in, garbage out

  • Utilitarianism

  • Black swan events

  • Systems thinking

  • Unknown unknowns

  • Counterfactual thinking

  • Lateral thinking

  • Groupthink

    • Bandwagon effect

  • Divergent thinking

    • Convergent thinking

  • Crowdsourcing

  • Game theory

    • arms Race

    • prisoner's dilemma

    • Nash equilibrium

    • influence models

      • reciprocity

      • commitment

      • liking

      • social proof

      • scarcity

      • authority

  • Social norms vs market norms

  • Ultimatum game

    • distributive / procedural justice

    • fair share / share

    • appeal to emotion

  • FUD - fear, uncertainty, doubt

  • straw man

    • ad hominem

  • Trojan horse

    • bait and switch

    • Potemkin village

  • Mutually assured destruction

    • deterrence

      • carrot-and-stick

    • containment

      • flypaper theory

  • Domino effect

    • slippery slope argument

    • broken windows theory

    • gateway drug theory

  • Loss leader strategy

    • appeasement

  • Red line

    • nuclear option

    • zero-tolerance policy

    • call your bluff

    • war of attrition

    • guerrilla warfare

      • punching above your weight

    • generals always fight the last war - default to strategies in the past

  • Endgame

    • exit strategy

    • Hail Mary pass

    • burn the boats

  • Joy's law

    • 10x team

    • introverts / extroverts

    • generalists / specialists

    • commandos / infantry / police

    • foxes / hedgehogs

  • Peter principle

    • Managing to the person

    • strategy vs tactics

    • institutional knowledge

    • unicorn candidate

    • directly responsible individual

    • bystander effect

    • power vacuum

  • Deliberate practice

    • spacing effect

  • Challenge directory - care personally

    • radical candor

    • ruinous empathy

    • manipulative insincerity

    • obnoxious aggression

  • Consequence-conviction matrix

  • Fixed vs growth mindset

    • Pygmalion effect

    • golem effect

    • impostor syndrome

    • Dunning-Kruger effect

  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs

  • Hindsight bias

  • Winning hearts and minds

  • Culture

    • high-context / low-context

    • tight / loose

    • heirachical / egalitarian

    • collectivist / individualist

    • objective / subjective

    • loyalists / mercenaries

  • Manager's vs Maker's schedule

  • Dunbar's number

  • Boots on the ground

  • Mythical man-month

  • Market power

    • arbitrage

    • sustainable competitive advantage

    • first-mover advantage / disadvantage

    • product/market fit

    • (open) Secret

    • resonance

  • Consensus-contrarian matrix

  • Homebrew computer club

  • Why now? Now what?

    • simultaneous invention

  • Observe / orient / decide / act

    • pivot

  • What type of customer are you hunting?

    • personas

    • bright spot

    • beachhead

  • Idea maze

  • Heat-seeking missiles

  • Moat

    • lock-in

    • switching costs

    • barriers to entry / exit

    • regulatory capture

  • Winner-takes-most markets

  • Crossing the chasm

  • Cargo cult

  • Circle of competence

  • Overview effect