Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve
Co-founder & CEO @ Alan
23 déc 2020Livres

The Great Mental Models: Physics, Chemistry and Biology

Through unexpected connections, The Great Mental Models: Physics, Chemistry and Biology, written by Rhiannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish, seeks to change your vision of the world and how you pursue decision-making. I do believe it is a must read and you should run and buy it!

The great mental models

Indeed, this book approaches the foundational concepts of physics, chemistry and biology as mental models that can alter your perception of any intricate situation. While nearly two dozen mental models are explored in this second volume, here are the key take-aways of my favourite ones! I find them very useful in building a company.


Whenever you get frustrated about an issue or stuck, the solution might not be far but simply out of your perspective. In these cases, remember how relativity can switch or expand your vision through three tools:

  1. Thought experiments: By evaluating the potential consequences of our decisions, re-examining the effect of previous ones, thought experiments enable us to reach the ‘objective reality’ leading to sounder choices.

  2. The subjectivity of perspective: acknowledging that your perspective is limited by your frame of reference and working towards its expansion when taking any critical or risky decision.

  3. Stepping in someone else’s shoes or extending the timeline: to shift your vantage point when being stuck on an issue.


The model of reciprocity encourages us to engage in positive and proactive behaviour to motivate and benefit from a similar behaviour around us. Giving is a prerequisite to receiving. “If you want people to listen to you, listen to them.


  • The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.
  • The second law states that entropy (measure of disorder) of an isolated system always increases: without the use of energy, all things move away from order.
  • Like physical systems, we will be influenced by the behavior of the people around us. Being proactive and choosing your peers wisely to make the best use of the collective energy is key to avoid entering an entropic spiral.

Inertia & Activation Energy

  • Effective changes and initiating movement require significant efforts. Hence, once a project has been started, fighting inertia and pursuing your idea until the end will save you energy and time. The initial energy spark must be turned into a long-lasting fire.

  • It is worth noticing that this mental model explains the difficulties to change consumer behaviour. Humans are naturally inclined to consume according to their habits and not practicality, health or new thinking. Consumption habits increasingly comfort inertia through time meaning that changing them requires ever more efforts.


Can distort your trajectory towards a certain objective. Prefer clarity and direction over speed when seeking your target or when explaining to your peers how it should be pursued.


From Aristotle or Leonardo Da Vinci to any other creative thinker, combining theoretical knowledge with practical experiments and intuition has delivered the most innovative outputs. Always think about how you can mix several sources of knowledge to reach ever more creative outcomes.


Similarly to species’ evolution through natural selection, businesses must adapt themselves to an ever evolving consumption environment to survive. Hence, we must seek for flexibility and innovation to thrive persistently over competition.


When building the perfect football team, Bill Walsh emphasised that “everyone has a role, and every role is essential”. When shaping an organization, we must identify – if any - the prospective contribution from each agent to reach a harmonious ecosystem.


Is successful when trust and group wide commitment exist. Hence, when deciding whether to enter a partnership focus on identifying which mutual gains could be the motors of success.


As an engineer by training, I loved reading this book which connected the core concepts of science to the way we work, communicate and increase productivity. I hope it will help and inspire you as it inspired me.

Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve
Co-founder & CEO @ Alan

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