Checkers and my Father.

When I was young I played checkers with my father; at some point I learned to play chess but that was never with him. I remember playing some games and then I remember a fateful game that ended all the future games. I couldn’t have been older than ten or eleven at this point but we started playing and it became clear that our tactics were identical. We eventually locked the pieces and were unable to progress. Now, memory being what it is, perhaps there were more games that ended the same way but I’m going to be poetic and say it was just the one.

One stalemate of a game of checkers and we never played again.

Let’s move ahead 15 years and I’m working for my father, you know, family business.  Now without getting too deep in matters, we’re both managing the same people. We have slightly a different focus in what we need from each employee and the ultimate decision was his but we still are responsible for managing them.

As time went on, it became clear that we have two different management styles. Our tactics were no longer identical.  He approached management in a very Laissez-Faire way. Let employees do what they wanted, very little correction or guidance offered, expecting individuals to grow on their own. I’m sure you can see that I feel differently. I enjoyed learning about the employees I managed, their likes and strengths and what nots and using that to adjust the role to provide more of what they needed. When recurrent issues became apparent, talk to the person and see what can be done. Is more training needed? Is the process too complicated? Is this something on my end I can adjust or fix?

Now, this isn’t about checkers really or the fact that we have completely different approaches to management, this is about the fact that we have different mental models. This is something that as designers we forget with an all too common frequency. By all intents and purposes (porpoises), my father taught me a significant amount of his knowledge on management. Yet in there I drifted to a different approach.

Which surprises me. I guess it shouldn’t, with everything I know about how our brains work, but it does.

Our mental models are built on very complex and differing inputs, experiences, and previous mental models.

But what is our ultimate take away from this drift down memory lane?

That we are different people, always. Even when we think we’re not, we’re still different and we still process information differently. So, fellow designers and individuals who just wandered by, there’s cookies by the door, but try to remember that we all think differently even if we get to that same place eventually.

That locked checker board.

As an aside, do twins have similar mental models? This would be good research – my initial google fu brought up twin research which is more practical.

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