You are the model (versus talking about the model)

Posted on by Brandon Klein


Models in and of themselves may or may not be useful to a recipient of the model. The form of the introduction of a model may even be an impediment to its use. Immediacy/Credibility comes from the application of a model, not its lineage/Authoritative Delivery/Matches the need 

The DesignShop axiom “The only valid test of an idea, concept, or theory is what it enables you to do” applies to the many models used in a session. Models presented as interesting or ‘kewl’ in and of themselves are often received by the listener as distracting or irrelevant. The enthusiasm of a person presenting a model can undermine the credibility of the presenter. In the context of the ASE, participants are looking those who can help solve mission critical business problems, not cultists.

It is a core principle of adult learning that grown-ups are most likely to take the time to learn that which they need to learn in order to deal effectively with their current situation. In the face of extraordinary demands on their time and energy, they selectively attend to that which can help them. Models presented as aids to thinking or acting are recognized as useful – and are much more likely to be retained in memory and used again.


Models are most useful when they are embodied in the experience of the person presenting the model. Models borrow credibility from the one presenting the model. The presenter demonstrates his or her authority by developing deep rapport with the group and presenting models when they are immediately useful to the receiver.


Adults learn in the context of a relationship of trust and rapport. Establishing a deep connection with participants is a pre-condition for effective transmission of information. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The point is not to explicitly express your concern or commitment to a group – this strategy can often backfire. Rather, you demonstrate your concern by listening to a group and responding with those specific models and activities which allow them to move forward toward a solution.

The most effective models are personalized by the one presenting the model. To be effective, you must become the model, using your own experience and practice to convey its usefulness. It is your personal credibility that wins a hearing for the model, not the innate persuasiveness of a model that establishes your authority. You will, however, build your credibility by selecting and clearly communicating models and approaches that work.

You also establish yourself as a trusted business advisor when you have the discernment to select models for use that are useful for solving the problem at hand. Giving enough information to solve the problem – and perhaps just a little bit more – is the most effective strategy for maintaining and building relationship.

How do you know what & how much of it to present when? Don’t present a model just because it has a particular parentage or is ‘kewl.’ Use the models to help participants conceptualize something they are struggling with.

You can also go to: You exemplify behavior you expect. During boot camp the Marines intentionally remove recruits from things that they hold familiar. They take away all the conventional anchors of civilian behavior. They present the drill sergeant as an icon of what recruits could become. This individual serves both as tormentor and exemplar.