24.  NLP Modeling

One of the earliest NLP books is Frogs Into Princes.  First published in 1979, it's the transcript of an NLP seminar jointly lead by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.
Very early on in the course/book, one of the presenters (the book doesn't say which one) makes this statement:

We call ourselves modelers.  What we essentially do is is to pay very little attention to what people say they do, and a great deal of attention to what they do.  And then we build ourselves a model of what they do."
(page 7.  Italics as in the original)

Approximately twenty-six years later, in October 2005, a message appeared on various NLP sites and chat groups.  This is the main text of that message:

By John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair

The development of any discipline, and especially one still organizing its initial patterning requires a certain attentiveness to precision in its fundamental vocabulary.  Older disciplines have either clarified their fundamental terms (once or repetitively) and have established an apparent relatively stable platform on which further investigations and professional dialogue may be based.or they have fallen upon the sharp points that often protrude from their ill-defined terms, suffering debilitating and sometimes even fatal wounds that have precluded significant further development.  Such ill-defined distinctions sway in the wind, impaled on these sticking points.

Some care must be given in making determinations with respect to a standardized vocabulary.  In general, distinctions in experiences are awarded distinct descriptive terms while notional variants are assigned to equivalence classes.  This is the normal business of a discipline during its formative stages: to achieve a richness of distinctions, a descriptive precision and simultaneously an economy of expression; in an ideal world, at any rate.

The distinction in question in this note is the term modeling as used in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).  In particular, the distinction between modeling as practiced in the field of NLP and modeling as practiced more generally.

NLP Modeling, in the creation of the initial models that founded the field of NLP, at present and in the future of NLP, references an appreciation of and respect for two criteria that apply to modeling in NLP:

  1. the suspension of any taxonomic and/or analytic attempt (all f2 transforms as described in Whispering in the Wind, see www.nlpwhisperinginthewind.com) to understand consciously the patterning of the genius or model of excellence during the assimilation stage of patterning and until the following criterion is met
  2. the modeler must demonstrate the ability to reproduce the patterning of the model in parallel contexts and in such contexts elicit roughly the same responses from client with roughly the same quality and time commitment as the original genius or model of excellence prior to beginning the challenging and rewarding activity of codification of the patterning demonstrated by the modeler

We further note that all modeling work products failing to meet these criteria are to be classified as some other logical type of model - we suggest Analytic Modeling as a general term for such work products; employing the patterning and the distinctions available in the technology of NLP applications but failing to respect the definition of NLP modeling.

It is also quite clear that there are applications (e.g. modeling a story teller) or contexts (e.g. the model is not available, deceased) in which the rather more extended and demanding commitment implied by NLP modeling may not be either applicable or the most efficacious or efficient strategy for explicating the patterning of a genius or extraordinary individual whose patterning is of interest.  We intend this statement to be a recognition that there are other forms of modeling perfectly legitimate as strategies for learning which, nevertheless fail to meet the criteria that we are proposing defines NLP modeling.

The essential difference of consequence between the process of NLP modeling and Analytic modeling is the relative contributions of the model and modeler to the final work product.  This difference resides principally in the degree of imposition of the perceptual and analytic categories of the modeler during the modeling process.  In the case of NLP modeling, the imposition is minimal; in the case of Analytic modeling, the imposition is maximal.  These two extremes define a continuum of possibilities and it may well be that other practitioners of other forms of modeling may wish to propose further distinctions.  We would welcome such refinements but at present will content ourselves with the one proposed here.

The requirements that the development of all cognitive representations be systematically suspended during the unconscious assimilation phase and the requirement that the modeler demonstrate the ability to perform as does the origin model or genius prior to beginning any cognitive coding describes the source of these profound differences.

The intention behind this description is to ensure that this distinction - arguably the most revolutionary contribution of NLP - is preserved and that by the systematic use of this distinction, the public may appreciate the differences between the two logical classes of models and the distinctive processes of modeling thereby implied: NLP modeling and Analytic modeling.  We invite well-intentioned practitioners of NLP to join us in preserving the distinction herein proposed or to offer commentary about how such an essential distinction can be preserved in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

We further invite members of the NLP community who are considering participating in courses presenting modeling to request clarification of the type of modeling being presented.  Such activity will ensure that the distinction is maintained in the field and that participants in courses will be able to determine whether the type of modeling is what they wish to master.

Carmen Bostic St. Clair & John Grinder

Bonny Doon, California

October, 2005