The Value Creators Podcast Episode #26. 11 New Mental Models for Business

Mental models are defined as fundamental assumptions that shape the way individuals perceive and interact with the world. When our mental models are wrong, we can’t see the world as it really is. New mental models introduce a new and better understanding. This episode of the Value Creators podcast introduces eleven fundamental mental models, ranging from understanding value as a subjective creation within the minds of customers, to the strategic accumulation of knowledge within a firm, to the pivotal role of empathy and the transformative nature of marketing as behavior. Each mental model contributes to a new holistic paradigm designed to guide entrepreneurs in creating sustained value.

Mental models contribute to the necessary shift in business mindsets towards a dynamic approach that emphasizes the continuous flow of experimentation and the ongoing refinement of knowledge through error correction. 



0:00 | Intro: Choosing Right Mental Model for Success

02:43 | Mental model Number 1: Value is Created by the Customer

04:07 | Mental Model Number 2: Knowledge

05:13 | Mental Model Number 3: Empathy 

06:23 | Mental Model Number 4: Marketing

07:26 | Mental Model Number 5: Design

08:15 | Mental Model Number 6: Innovation

09:30 | Mental Model Number 7: Entrepreneurship

11:08 | Mental Model Number 8: Finance and Accounting

12:13 | Mental Model Number 9: Organization

13:08 | Mental Model Number 10: Business is a Flow

14:05 | Mental Model Number 11: Knowledge Accumulation

15:20 | Wrap-Up: Value Creation For Customers

Knowledge Capsule:

Mental Models for Success:

  • Mental models as fundamental assumptions about how the world works…
  • Correct mental models lead to valid conclusions, while incorrect ones result in mistakes.

Mental Model Number 1: Value Creation Paradigm

  • The customer is the creator of value.
  • Challenge the traditional view of businesses creating value; instead, recognize customers as value creators – since value is subjective and is generated in their minds.

Mental Model Number 2: Customer knowledge is the source of competitive advantage

  • A lasting competitive advantage for firms comes from accumulating and compounding customer knowledge and understanding..

Mental Model Number 3: Empathy as a business tool

  • The tool for building customer understanding is empathy.
  • Empathy is not “thinking as they think” – it is a simulation of the customer’s experience and how the customer evaluates it.
  •  The simulation enables businesses to understand and address customers’ unmet needs.

Mental Model Number 4: Marketing is behavior not communication

  • Marketing is not communication and persuasion.
  • Marketing is behavior, an act of love towards customers.

Mental Model Number 5: Reverse the flow of design

  • Design is working backwards not forwards – backward from the customer and their experiences and desires., 
  • By working backwards, design ensures that customer wants are integrated seamlessly into products and services.

Mental Model Number 6: Innovation is continuous

  • Innovation is not an event – it must be continuous, unceasing experimentation and improvement.
  • The greatest innovation lies in innovating new business models..

Mental Model Number 7: Entrepreneurship is the only route to value creation

  • The value creation process is enabled through entrepreneurship, not management.
  • Entrepreneurship translates customer’s genius in sensing that things could be better (How do they know?) into innovative products or services through continuous new action.

Mental Model Number 8: Finance and Accounting should look forwards as well as backwards

  • Traditional accounting can’t accommodate value creation – the intangibles that create customer value.
  • Make sure your accounting balances backward-looking tracking with forward-looking economic calculation.

Mental Model Number 9: Rethink organization

  • Don’t organize!
  • Encourage self-organization and autonomy for employees interfacing with customers.

Mental Model Number 10: Business as a Flow

  • Don’t plan!
  • Adopt a continuous flow approach in business and individual work.

Mental Model Number 11: Unceasing knowledge Accumulation

  • Constantly critique and improve knowledge through collaborative open-minded critique and error correction.

The Value Creators Podcast Episode #20. Julie Kantor and Felice Ekelman on How To Thrive With A Hybrid Workplace

The nature of work has changed, so how we manage it must change, too.

As businesses barrel along into the fast-changing digital age, we find that the very nature of work has changed. The new name for the office or the factory is the hybrid workplace. Not only where we do work, but how we do work has changed, and how we synchronize work with each other has changed the most. For the firm, productivity is at risk. And all the standard approaches to business that we’ve been taught are outdated. Take management as an example. How do you manage a hybrid workplace and workforce. Our point of view at The Value Creators is that management is an old-fashioned concept we have to discard. We need something new. 

The Value Creators podcast hosted two of the best experts to address the challenges of the hybrid workplace, Julie Kantor and Felice Ekelman. They are co-authors of the book that will provide the background to our discussion today: Thrive With A Hybrid Workplace: Step-by-Step Guidance from the Experts.

Personal Websites:


0:00 | Intro

03:06 | Old System VS New System: Work-life Balance & Remote Work During the Pandemic

09:55 | Hybrid Work and Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World

14:02 | Hybrid Model: Nine to Five Model is Gone

16:42 | Hybrid Workplace: Seven Seas Framework

22:53 | Hybrid Policy: How Are We Managing Change?

24:50 | Culture of change: Importance of Face-to-Face Connection

28:07 | Communication, Collaboration, and Leadership in a Hybrid Work Environment

34:46 | Coaching as a Fundamental Part of the Hybrid

37:27 | Smart Goals: Well-Being in the Workplace

38:48 | Productivity in the Hybrid Workspace

41:34 | Hybrid Workspace: Compliance Load

46:12| Wrap up: Where are we heading?

Knowledge Capsule:

We need to re-think the idea of productivity in the world of Hybrid Work:

  • Leaders are struggling to measure the productivity of knowledge workers in a hybrid setting, as traditional metrics like presence in the office are no longer applicable.
  • Early data emphasizes the risk of lost productivity – performance is lowered.
  • There’s a big need for leaders to clearly communicate what excellence in performance looks like in a hybrid work environment is emphasized.
  • But driving hybrid work performance faces compliance challenges:
    • In a hybrid workplace, compliance issues may arise, particularly if employees are working from different states. Local laws may apply, leading to complexities in compliance.
    • Issues related to measuring hours worked, especially for non-exempt employees, pose challenges in maintaining accurate time records.
    • Issues of perceived equity can easily arise.
  • Therefore clear expressions of intent are imperative:
    • The complexity of managing compliance and policies in a hybrid work environment requires intentionality and thought from employers.
    • Inconsistencies in enforcing hybrid work policies can lead to litigation and allegations of discrimination.
  • Hybrid work leads to a new Future of Work:
    • Not just the way we work will change, but there’ll be changes in business models, such as the Chinese business model, RenDenHeyi, which emphasizes decentralized value creation through relationships and connections more than reporting relationships and structure..
    • The integration of work, home, and personal life is expected to continue. Management must include a focus on mental health and well-being.
    • Technology will change the nature of the hybrid workplace even faster, with advancements like mirror boards for synchronous collaboration.
  • Employers should look at hybrid work as a great opportunity to create new value for employees:
    • The shift to a hybrid work model presents a significant opportunity for employers to differentiate themselves and demonstrate flexibility and trust to employees.
    • Employers who successfully navigate the challenges of hybrid work have the potential to be seen as best in class.
  • Thrive in a Hybrid Workplace:
    • The book, “Thrive with a Hybrid Workplace,” focuses on the concept of thriving in the context of a hybrid work environment.
    • The emphasis is on how employers can create a workplace where both employees and the business thrive.
  • Looking to the Future:
    • Predicting the exact future of work is challenging, but the integration of flexibility, trust, and well-being will continue evolving towards more employee value.
    • Employers have the opportunity to create a workplace that fosters trust, flexibility, and ultimately, thriving.

The Value Creators Podcast Episode #17. Jeremy Vesta: Curally, Nurse-Coaching, and Medicine 3.0

Jeremy Vesta is a Value Creator in a field where value creation is intensely focused on the experiences of individual consumers: health care. He’s CFO of Curally, an innovative services company designed to help individuals in a highly distinctive and intensely focused manner: helping every individual to be healthier today than they were yesterday. Curally is bringing a fresh new kind of innovation to an industry with a traditionally closed structure.

Show Notes:

0:00 | Intro

02:14 | A Conversation with Jeremy Vashta: How He Surveyed the Healthcare Field

06:00 | Discussing Healthcare Economics in Detail

10:22 | Defining Nurse Coaching

12:31 | Initiating Relationships with High-Risk Individuals

14:35 | Training Nurses as Coaches

16:24 | The Key Variable in Engagement

18:08 | Jeremy’s Unique Corporate Value Proposition: Promoting Wellness and Building a Cohesive Culture

21:57 | Discussing Measurable ROI in Detail

23:53 | Sedentary Lifestyles and Obesity: Discussing the Biggest Healthcare Problem

26:40 | Embracing Long-Term Health and Behavior Modification

31:34 | Creating a Hospitable Environment Can Prevent Diseases

36:12 | Coaching Definition Beyond the Medical Field By Jeremy

39:01 | Can AI Help With Coaching in the Future?

41:30 | Wrap Up: Reach out to Jeremy at


Knowledge Capsule

The healthcare ecosystem can appear to be intimidatingly closed to entrepreneurial insurgency.

  • It’s a field populated with large, inflexible, highly regulated entities: hospital chains, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies.
  • They’re all intertwined in a structure that defends against innovation from outside the system..
  • The economic signals to the industry are obscured by the third party payment mechanism and the insurers’ and employers’ drive to reduce costs.

Yet there are significant innovation opportunities if the industry were more hospitable to them.

  • An entrepreneurial focus on improving the end-user (patient) experience quickly identifies gaps to be addressed.
  • The gaps are fundamental: understanding the root causes of many long term health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and lost stability and movement.
  • A new focus on behavioral change and individual responsibility for prevention can lead to long term health improvements for individuals and populations.
  • Behavior from twenty years ago affects current health problems.
  • Insight comes from recognizing the long-term impact of past behaviors.

Curally offers a new Value Proposition to Corporations who provide healthcare programs to employees.:

  • Providing real wellness, not just a healthcare insurance program.
  • Improving employee well-being and productivity and reducing losses of workdays for health reasons.
  • Creating a positive cultural impact within the company.
  • With a calculable ROI.

The innovation is delivered through a creative, human interpersonal medium: Nurse-Coaching.

  • Nurse-coaching offers an innovative approach to healthcare, with a focus on behavior modification.
  • It involves building a strong relationship with patients to help them make healthier choices.
  • It’s both human and scalable – there’s the capability to train and equip a large number of nurse-coaches.

Combination of Digital and Human Delivery in Nurse-Coaching:

  • Authenticity in Coaching is of critical importance in human relationships.
  • But there’s a role for digitally delivered information, expert input and digital behavior tracking, too.
  • There is potential for AI to play a role in coaching but challenging due to the need for authenticity.
  • Balancing the human touch with technological efficiency.

Relationships and Engagement are important.

  • Viewing medicine as a holistic approach beyond just science.
  • Addressing the mental, emotional, and relational aspects.
  • Building trust and authentic relationships with individuals.

Solving the Problem of Sedentariness, Lack of Physical Activity, and Obesity:

  • The need for a more individualized and relationship-based approach.
  • Addressing behavior modification rather than relying solely on prescriptions.
  • The challenge of making the long-term costs of unhealthy behaviors more immediate.

Curally is contributing to the emergence of Medicine 3.0:

  • Shift from the goal of lifespan to the goal of healthspan: longer quality of life, not just duration.
  • Recognizing the contribution of behavior to overall health.
  • Shifting from medicine 2.0, which identifies and addresses critical events, to medicine 3.0, focusing on healthspan.
  • Intervening earlier and understanding the long-term impact of current actions on future health.

The Value Creators Podcast Episode #6. Kevin Roy: How To Stay In The Lead In The Adaptive System Of Digital Marketing

Continuous change is a feature of the adaptive entrepreneurial model of value creation. Digital marketing is a perfect illustration. By definition, it’s a field characterized by feedback loops and the only way to stay ahead is fast response and a willingness to learn and change.

Kevin Roy, CEO of the digital marketing agency Green Banana, has pioneered in this field and stayed ahead as a leader.


0:00 | Introduction

0:36 | Digital Marketing

1:36 | Introducing Kevin Roy

2:03 | Definition of Digital Marketing

3:17 | Changes in Digital Marketing over the Years

4:47 | Metrics of Digital Marketing

5:49 | Measuring Effects in Digital Marketing

7:16 | Green Banana: What Makes Them Unique

10:03 | Building Relationships

10:29 | Social Media Marketing

12:49 | Email Marketing: Ranked

14:12 | Partnering as a Service

14:56 | Being Seen, Being Heard.

16:14 | Values-based Campaigns with Digital Marketing

17:29 | Over-reliance with Digital Marketing 

18:56 | Introvert Generations

20:00 | Consumer Feeling with Digital Marketing

21:29 | Privacy is no longer a Social Norm

22:30 | Controlling our Personal Data in the Future

23:26 | Digital Marketing Technology

25:10 | Innovations with Digital Marketing AI Future

27:47 | Bottomline with Digital Marketing

28:40 | Final Wrap-Up

Knowledge Capsule

Here are ten things Kevin Roy told us.

1. Digital marketing changed the world with measurability. You learn your results every day, every second, every click. It’s necessary to live in this world of results, not judgment.

2. The same commitment to results is true for practitioners – digital marketing clients are going to pay for performance, not for promises or creative flair.

3. Paradoxically, the commitment to measurability leads to stronger client relationships. You need complete technical expertise to generate and measure results, and deep human expertise to guide clients through the white water of results versus expectations.

4. The world of digital marketing changed even more with the advent of social media and marketing to individuals and personas – with this level of hyper targeting you now know for sure who likes your offering and who doesn’t.

5. More measurability means more experimentation – you can run a host of test campaigns and expand those that work – it’s essence of the adaptive entrepreneurial method. Don’t fret about creativity, just measure outcomes.

6. The goal for clients is not just to be seen and heard — but to be seen and heard for the specific attribute or promise or feature that you want to be seen and heard for. Hyper tactical beats generalized values-based marketing – the values can emerge as a result of the tactical. If Nike sells a lot of shoes, they’ll be remembered as the “Just Do It” brand. Not otherwise.

7. The new generation of digital natives are just different than their predecessor generations – for example, they can be shy and reserved in person but super-energetic and productive on zoom. They are really, really comfortable in the digital space.

8. One consequence is that they’re not annoyed by all the ads and emails and pop ups that older folks might be. They live in the digital world and are comfortable with its consumption patterns.

9. And they don’t worry about Privacy. Privacy is no longer a social norm (Zuckerberg).

10. They welcome greater personalization – because ultimately they see it as a social good. In the future, personalization will bring them better health care, better education and better services in general. Through self-modeling by AI, they’ll create their personal avatar that will make presentations for them, design their personal logo and generate their personal images. They embrace AI and look forward to using it.

The Value Creators Podcast Episode #3. Jason LaBaw: Culture And Technology Amidst High-Speed Change

You need two types of knowledge to succeed in the business world: specialized technical knowledge and deep customer knowledge. This will allow you to create uniquely valued experiences tailored to your customers and thus build a thriving business.

Jason LaBaw, as the founder and CEO of Bonsai Media Group and a pioneer in web development, AdWords, Google Analytics, and Umbraco development, has accumulated over 18 years of industry experience, client service, and strategic leadership in the digital world and has become an expert in combining technical and customer knowledge to scale.

In this episode, Jason touches on how he believes the future will look and what principles he is certain will be invaluable to thrive in a futuristic economy, such as empathy, planning, and budgeting.

Show Notes:

0:00 | Intro to Entrepreneurial Management

1:56 | Introducing Jason Labaw

3:10 | Businesses Coping with Technology

7:11 | Ways to Engineer Technology

8:32 | How to Work & Run a Business These Days

10:31 | End-user Experience

11:52 | User testing

12:35 | Secrets of Empathy

14:49 | Getting into Depth with Bonsai Media Group

21:01 | Trends: Augmented Reality 

24:40 | Storytelling as a marketing

25:20 | Story about the Future

27:39 | Gamifying Work

29:30 | Risks of Technology to Entrepreneurs

31:52 | Learn More About Bonsai Media Group

Knowledge Capsule:

Combining customer knowledge and tech knowledge.

One of the Value Creator’s mantras is to combine deep customer knowledge with specialized technology knowledge to create uniquely valued experiences for customers and thereby build successful businesses.

Jason LaBaw has done this successfully at the company he formed, Bonsai Media Group. He illustrates how it’s perfectly viable to start simply and advance quickly.

  • An early example of a project is one where the company, in customer service mode, transformed a trivia app request from a client into a social contest that engaged users and immersed them in the brand’s story.
  • This evolved into various combinations of the digital and physical worlds through scavenger hunts – which became an exploration of the potential of AR and VR.
  • AR and VR can be further combined with 3D product imaging. It turns out that 3D experiences are hugely beneficial for conversion rates. 
  • Combining his experiences in both the digital and physical realms, he began envisioning ways to create immersive experiences that merge AR and the real world: to make exploring the world as fun as playing a video game, using technology to encourage people to get out and explore the real world around them.

Simple steps towards a complex future.

With these relatively simple business steps, Jason has now advanced to become a futurist of AR, VR, and AI. While some believe these technologies have been overhyped, Jason believes they have tremendous potential to transform human experiences. He emphasizes the importance of human connection and expresses his hope that future generations won’t be locked in virtual worlds. He sees augmented reality, AI, and voice-enabled technologies as key drivers for positive change. For instance, he envisions a scenario where augmented reality glasses enhance meetings by providing contextual information and augmenting reality with relevant data.

The discussion also touched on the concept of gamification. Jason explains how gamifying networking events can facilitate connections and conversations by using augmented reality cues to identify shared interests. He believes gamification can also be applied to work, where incentives and rewards can be used to motivate employees and create a more engaging and efficient work environment.

There are basic economic principles underlying this futuristic scenario.


Empathy remains the essential skill for businesses, no matter how futuristic or high-tech. Jason emphasizes the importance of having conversations and conducting in-person interviews with various stakeholders, including frontline workers, managers, and customers. This qualitative data gathering allows businesses to uncover valuable insights and understand how customers perceive their brand and experiences. Jason recognizes the value of quantitative data, such as analytics and user testing, in making informed decisions and improving products, but it’s best when it is in addition to qualitative data,

This way businesses can focus on their customers’ needs, goals, and preferences to create competitive advantages. He suggests that companies can provide value by enabling customers to perform tasks online, like paying bills. 

Planning and budgeting

Planning, allocating budget, and continuously iterating based on customer feedback and analytics are crucial for adapting to change

Jason suggests a general formula for coping with technological change, starting with a budget-focused approach. By analyzing different options and making design and technical decisions based on budget and return on investment (ROI), businesses can adapt to changing technologies. He emphasizes the need for clarity and defining a project’s ROI from the start. By allocating budget or accruing it, businesses can invest in technology iteratively over time, improving functionality, and user interfaces, and switching components when necessary.

Additionally, Jason highlights the significance of having a contingency plan to deal with unexpected events or disruptions. He shares an example of a company that had to pivot quickly when a technology vendor was acquired. Being prepared with alternative vendors or technologies enables businesses to adapt swiftly.

208. Melissa Swift: Human Action To Build A Powerhouse Workplace

What can economics tell us about designing fulfilling jobs and productive workplaces? Quite a lot if we apply the economics of subjective value and empathy. Melissa Swift is the author of Work Here Now: Think Like A Human And Build A Powerhouse Workplace. She discusses her research on the Economics For Business podcast.

Knowledge Capsule

Poorly designed jobs and workplaces are dangerous, dull, annoying, frustrating and/or confusing.

The results of academic research have confirmed how alienated many workers are from their jobs, and the trends in these findings are worsening, not improving. During the pandemic, many of us had the opportunity to stand back and survey this situation, and realize that it’s a problem that we need to address.

We can do better by applying Austrian economics principles of subjective value and empathy.

The economics of subjective value should point employers in the direction of asking how employees feel about their jobs and the sense of purpose and meaning they derive from them. Why do these considerations not arise, or why are they insufficiently acknowledged? Melissa Swift sees what she calls a wall between how human beings operate and how the world of work operates. We think in discrete terms about “work” on one hand, and “people” on another, and don’t integrate them well.

Managers have demonstrated a penchant for intensifying work (doing more in less time and with fewer resources) and for pressing for over-collaboration (too many reports, checkpoints, meetings and interactions and exchanges, and belonging to too many teams) with the ultimate result of detracting from an individual’s capacity to get things done. Managers don’t necessarily tie the design of work to impact delivered or value created.

In fact, much work is performative, putting on a display of work that is not necessarily productive (writing impeccable but essentially useless reports, for example).

Managers should be actively looking for and rooting out problems of bad jobs and poor work environments.

Melissa Swift’s formula is to be humble and curious in asking how work feels to those who are doing it. Employees know their work better than managers do (an observation which, of course, turns management science on its head).

There are a couple of “monsters” that can be identified and tamed. One is the anxiety monster – we all feel anxiety about whether we are productive enough, or doing good enough work, or being viewed in a favorable light. Anxious managers stand over people, telling them to work harder and faster. We must shut down all the anxious stories that are in our heads.

Employees can be over-anxious about customers, too. We may tend to over-deliver on customer care and customer expectations, to the point where we train them to be so demanding that they go beyond the point where the corporation is capable of fulfilling its own promises.

Once “monster” jobs — those that generate excess anxiety — are established, there’s a tendency for the HR “copy machine” to copy-paste them throughout the company, so that more employees become stressed.

Listening for job stress and devising better ways of working is an entrepreneurial task.

The entrepreneurial mindset is to listen to customers (in this case, job incumbents), to identify unmet needs, which are aways based on emotion and can never be articulated perfectly clearly, to creatively design new solutions to the customer’s felt problem, and to institute positive change using the new solution. This implies continuous adaptive change in job descriptions, performance expectations, structures, team and tasks.

The entrepreneurial approach is often hard to apply in the corporation. One reason is that incentives are lined up to favor what Melissa Swift calls “smooth”. Management incentive schemes are often designed to encourage “smooth” — no drastic changes or turns, steady progress. Yet the adaptive entrepreneurial system does not promise smooth, and can’t delver it. Innovation in response to changes in customer preferences or competition can be bumpy. And many organizations suffer from autoimmune disease — the defenses go up as soon as something unknown or unprecedented is encountered.

Good leadership can counter the auto-immune response — but it’s leadership that does less rather than more, relaxing constraints and letting those closest to customers and markets to make any needed adjustments and to respond at the rate of change that the market demands. Business school concepts of leadership have goaded executives into over-managing and over-controlling, and reversing the over-active concept of leadership is one of Melissa Swifts core prescriptions.

The HR Department is a big part of the problem.

The deep history of HR is dark. The function was founded to quell violence between labor and management. HR was to stand in the middle and to keep a lid on a boiling pot, as Melissa picturesquely expressed it. Performance management — mechanically measuring humans’ output in these toxic adversarial environments — was never a warm or supportive concept. As big business became more centralized, HR simply became more empowered and widened its scope. There was never much humanism in HR.

HR departments are not typically thinking about work and how work is changing and how to make it a better experience for people. If they were, they’d be thinking differently about matching talent to jobs, thinking more deeply about how alienating and constraining automation technology can be to those who have to use it. They know they are being monitored and measured and assessed.

Melissa recommends couples therapy for technology and those who work with it — to stop each party from driving the other crazy.

Asynchronous work, deconstructed work, transparent work.

Melissa’s book has 90 strategies for organizational level and team level problem solving actions and adjustments. We discussed three directions for better work.

Asynchronous work: fewer meetings, which provides greater flexibility for workers, it naturally de-intensifies (you don’t have to have the report ready for the regularly scheduled Thursday meeting), and it makes for more relaxed collaboration across time zones. Asynchronous work tends to be better documented and more permanent.

Deconstructed work: start with tasks to be done rather than job descriptions; assemble the optimum combination of humans and technology to get the tasks done; let talent flow to the work, i.e., it doesn’t matter if it is full time employees, part-timers, project specialists or gig workers or agencies or consultants doing the work, so long as the tasks get done by the best-qualified talent.

Transparent work: make all information available to all employees at all times, nothing hidden or out-of-bounds. As a result, employees and teams have all the information they need to do their jobs, with no need for hierarchical or administrative intervention. Accountability and empowerment are enhanced, and new talent may emerge when you don’t hire for information but for skill in using it.

Additional Resources

Work Here Now: Think Like A Human And Build A Powerhouse Workplace by Melissa Swift:

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber: