Andy Reynolds – 2024 – The Power and Promise of Mental Models in a Changing World


Throughout history humankind has used models to impose order on chaos. When we adopt shared beliefs about how one thing leads to another, we gain not only the ability to explain events around us, but also the ability to organize our efforts to control them. This gives us some relief from anxiety, but … there’s a problem: models are usually contested, because the world around us is indeed chaotic and amenable to alternative sensemaking constructs. Our defensive response is to anchor our models into our identity, and seek the power to impose them on others. From positions of power, we can convince others that our incumbent models as objective reality, or laws of nature. For those of us in the “system change sector” this spells trouble! We need to find ways to make change attractive to those who are invested in models that are no longer sufficient. In this presentation, we explore the power and the promise of mental models in a changing global context, to help make sense of the obstacles to innovation that we encounter daily.


Andy Reynolds views the world through a systems engineering lens with a social justice tint. Experienced in research, technology, innovation and management, he holds that the engineering profession’s mission must evolve to respect planetary boundaries, Indigenous peoples and sustainable development goals. He is fascinated by societal attitudes to risk and complexity, and has always enjoyed the risk management autonomy of all-season wilderness travel – a major reason why he migrated from the UK to Canada in 2009. Having spent 23 years as a naval engineer and 9 years managing R&D in government labs, he founded Inspire Resources in 2019 to pursue business model innovation in mining.