We are putting some links here to books, sites and software we think will be of interest to managers and trainers. This is not supposed to be a comprehensive list! If you want to do more research yourself, then try web and library searches using such terms as:

· visualisation
· process mapping
· concept mapping
· systems thinking
· soft systems
· rich pictures
· mental models
· graphic organisers
· cognitive mapping

Much of the relevant research comes from studies in psychology and learning. (Also, but beyond our area of expertise we see lots of work on mental models in the fields of computing, the sciences and literature.) In particular, some of the best developments in our view are to be found in school education, for example in the ‘graphic organisers’ learning support tools often seen in the USA . Many managers we’ve met either didn’t come into knowing contact with mental models at school or college, or they have forgotten them. Sometimes though, it is the simple use of a ‘child’s’ model that provides breakthrough thinking.

Coaching services that make extensive use of Mental Models:



Anders, G. & Beech, L.W. (1990). Reading: Mapping for meaning: 70 graphic organizers for comprehension. Sniffen Court.

Bromley, K., Irwin-De Vitis, L. & Modlo, M. (1995). Graphic organizers: Visual strategies for active learning. Scholastic, Inc.

Buzan, T. (2000). The mind map book. BBC.

Checkland, P. (1999). Soft systems methodology in action. Wiley Johnson-Laird, P. (1983) Mental models. Cambridge University Press.

Craig, M. (2000) Thinking visually. Continuum International.

De Bono, E. (1981) Atlas of management thinking. Maurice Temple Smith

Hyerle, D. (1996). Visual tools for constructing knowledge. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Kelly, G. (1955). Principles of personal construct psychology. Norton.

Morgan, G. (1997). Images of organisation. Sage.

Margulies, N. and Maal, N. (2001) Mapping inner space: Learning and teaching visual mapping. Zephyr.

Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline. Doubleday

Smith, S.M., Ward, T.B., and Finke R.A.(ed) (1995). The creative cognition approach. Bradford.

Thornburg, D.D. (1998). Brainstorms and lightening bolts: Thinking skills for the 21st century. Starsong.

Kitchin, R. and Freundschuh, S. (ed) 2000.Cognitive Mapping: Past, Present and Future. Routlege


(These are all current as we write, but the Internet is a constantly changing place.)
An interesting place by a psychologist to learn more about mental models theory and their place in thinking and reasoning.
How mental models can be used in designing learning environments
Learning theories – how we construct our own mental models through experience
A simple but effective description of mental modelsl
Apart from being an excellent resource for all kinds of management development, this site has a useful guide to systems thinking and learning organisations
A primer on systems thinking with examples of building mental models for organisational change
A simple primer on soft systems
Using process modelling for organisational design
A simple summary of graphic organisation of ideas
A short summary of concept mapping from the ERIC database
Concept mapping – with a detailed real-life example
Graphic organisers
Designed for kids – but a fabulous set of modelling tools for adults as well
An introduction to mind maps
Hexagon and systems thinking – a powerful alternative (or complement?) to mental models
A pyramid view of systems thinking
Affinity diagrams – another way of visualising ideas and patterns
Looking at ovals! – another way of looking at issues and ideas

Some commercial software tools, with descriptions of the thinking behind them:
(We don’t endorse these products, but are fans of MindManager and Inspiration in particular.)
For an example of using the ‘iThink’ software package for systems design
(Homepage for the software)
A software tool that visually organises creative ideas
The Mindmanager software tool for mind mapping
An alternative to Mindmanager
TheInspiration software tool for visual thinking – and a lot of practical ideas
Software and how to do cognitive mapping step-by-step