Many of our mental models are unconscious, unspoken assumptions, and in order to see the world more clearly we need to surface and examine them.

Some models, however, are designed specifically to help us to make good sense of the world. The map of the London Underground, for example, represents a complex and messy reality in a simplified form that is easy to understand and use.

Meaningful learning for adults is often more to do with seeing the world differently, or reframing it, than it is about learning new facts or theories. We often learn most by restructuring our familiar models of the world.

The most useful models, we have found, help us to make sense of our situation, and to take realistic decisions. In order to use them, we need to work with them, come to understand them and appreciate their benefits and limitations. They generally repay the effort.

There are a number of common types of model. If you understand these basic structures you can construct useful original models for yourself.