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The Power of Impossible Thinking

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The Power of Impossible Thinking

Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business

Wharton School Publishing,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If you get locked in an old mental model, you may miss the reality of new circumstances. Be ready to shift your thinking.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This book provides an elementary introduction to the way the mind works, but it is an entirely practical introduction. Authors Yoram (Jerry) Wind and Colin Crook tell readers the basics of mental functioning in order to warn them about putting too much trust in what seems to be. What we see is, in fact, not reality but rather mental models that we ourselves construct. When we understand this, we begin to see why it is important to test our mental models continuously for relevance to reality, and to change them. The authors address the impact of mental models on everything from business to personal health, using strong case histories (such as Oprah Winfrey’s life changing story) as illustrations. As a lagniappe, the publisher includes a CD with a brief summary of the book’s main points. getAbstract recommends this straightforward exposition; it will help you think about how you think.


Seeing What’s Not There

Neuroscience teaches that people do not see reality. Certainly, the real world exists, but it is not what people see. Seeing is active. Human brains interpret stimuli and create models based on individual memories and expectations. Instead of seeing reality, people see their own mental models and call them reality.

This discovery is relatively recent. For centuries, philosophers and scientists thought of seeing as a "Cartesian theater," after the philosopher Rene Descartes, who theorized that the senses reproduce a faithful image of an external reality and project it into the brain. This theory was very influential, but it does not describe how the brain really works. In actuality, stimulating the senses - seeing, touching, tasting, smelling or hearing - activates neural patterns, the products of a lifetime of experience and imagination. People actually see and respond to the neural patterns. Instead of seeing a projection of reality, individuals see a set of images and impressions that their own minds produce in response to stimuli. Individuals see a world of their own making - and they make the world on the basis of their mental models.

About the Authors

Yoram (Jerry) Wind is a professor of marketing, Lauder Professor and Founding Director of the Wharton Fellows Program and the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote Convergence Marketing and Driving Change. Colin Crook, a senior fellow at Wharton, is a member of the Rein Capital advisory board and the Emergence journal’s editorial board.

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