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Corporations often make the mistake of focusing too heavily on changing a particular action or behavior, rather than the mental model or thinking methodology that led up to the undesirable behavior. In order to shift mindsets and change the brain to adopt a more critical thinking approach, you have to engage System 2 thinking – the deliberate type of thinking involved in focus, deliberation, reasoning or analysis. System 2 thinking is contrasted by System 1 thinking, which is defined as the more intuitive reactions and instantaneous decisions that govern most of our lives.

One effective method to produce System 2 thinking is through the use of custom simulations, the kind that Regis Company builds for its clients to produce long-term changes in habit. In this video, Dr. Grace Chang explains the importance of engaging System 2 thinking.

In their book “Made To Stick,” Chip and Dan Heath highlight how simulations can be as effective as actually doing the desired tasks. For more information on the effectiveness of simulations, check out this article:

Simulation-Based Learning: Just Like The Real Thing

If you would like to read up more on System 2 thinking, please check out some of these links:

Defining System 1 & System 2 Thinking
Regis Company Insights
Of 2 Minds: How Fast and Slow Thinking Shape Perception and Choice

How do you engage System 2 thinking in your organization?


Grace Chang, PhD:          I think a lot of organizations focus just on content or skills and definitely, there’s a need for that. There’s a need to get certain baseline skills and content in. But a lot of times organizations will come to us and they’ll think that that’s the issue, and that actually isn’t the issue necessarily. A lot of times they need to be working on shifting how people think. Within organizations, we see this again and again across industries, people often have a very myopic view, and they only see their little piece without seeing the bigger picture. And so, that’s one type of mental model shift we could make, or they may need to shift from one way of thinking to another way because the environment has changed and the original way they were thinking, the thinking habit they had is no longer adaptive.

In terms of employing experiential activities to change mental models, at the Regis company, we mainly use customized simulations, but we also do other activities as well. Scenario planning, we have a whole bunch of design thinking activities to really get people into System 2 Thinking, so critical thinking. So they’re not relying on their System 1 Thinking, the more habit-driven system, the more automatic system. Too often, people are just looking at the outcomes, the behaviors, and they’re looking in trying to just change those. Unless you drive a change in the thinking that drives behaviors, you’re not going to have that longterm change you want. So that’s why we really focus on the mental models, the underlying thinking.

If you’re interested in learning more about System 2 Thinking and just Systems Thinking in general, links will be provided in the description to this video.