What is a Modelling Project?

Modelling is a process whereby an observer, the modeller, gathers information about the activity of a system with the aim of constructing a generalised description (a model) of how that system works. The model can then be used by the modeller and others to inform decisions and actions. The purpose of modelling is to identify ‘what is’ and how ‘what is’ works – without influencing what is being modelled. The modeller begins with an open mind, a blank sheet and an outcome to discover the way a system functions – without attempting to change it. [Note: We recognise this is an impossible outcome, since the observer, by simply observing, inevitably influences the person being observed. However this does not affect the intention of a modeller to not influence.]

Modelling is engineering in reverse. In forward-engineering, one designs a machine to do something; in reverse-engineering, one figures out what a machine was designed to do.

When ‘the system’ being observed is a person, what usually gets modelled is behaviour that can be seen or heard (sensory modelling), or thinking processes that are described through language (conceptual modelling). Figuring out how great tennis players serve is an example of the former, while identifying their beliefs and strategies for winning is an example of the latter.

The field of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) was established as a result of several modelling projects conducted by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They, in collaboration with Judith DeLozier, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, David Gordon, Robert Dilts and others, did much of the original work to codify the process of modelling sensory and conceptual domains.

Since it origins, through the works of Bandler, Grinder and their co-partners, the subject of modelling has evolved and improvised through subsequent researches by other eminent NLP practitioners. Today, while the original modelling work by NLP founders is still called as NLP Modelling, other improvised versions go by various names such as Analytical Modelling, Symbolic Modelling and also Behavior Modelling.

Definition of terms

Result The reproducible outcome which can be described in sensory specific terms.
The model An abstract formulation constructed from the information gathered from modelling the exemplar(s), which when actioned by an acquirer produces a similar class of results.
Exemplar The person (or group or organisation) that consistently achieves the results the modeller is seeking to reproduce. (In the early days of NLP, also sometimes confusingly referred to as – a model.). Some people also prefer to call it ‘Talent’
Modeller The person who gathers information from the exemplar, constructs the model, and tests its effectiveness, efficiency and elegance at reproducing similar results (usually by first acquiring the model themselves, and then facilitating others to acquire it).
Acquirer The person (usually including the modeller) who ‘takes on’ the model and attempts to reproduce results similar to those obtained by the exemplar.
Modelling The process of gathering information from an exemplar, constructing a model, and testing its effectiveness at reproducing similar results (which requires someone to acquire it).
Modelling project Both the plan for accomplishing the production and acquisition of a model, and the implementation of that plan. We distinguish five stages:

1. Preparing to model

2. Gathering information

3. Constructing a model

4. Testing the model

5. Acquiring the model

Self-modelling The process of a person constructing a model of how they achieve the results they get. Facilitating the exemplar to self-model in Stage 2 is often a very efficient way of gathering information. At Stages 3 and 4, the modeller self-models as a way of making explicit the out-of-awareness information they have gathered. During Stage 5, the acquirer can self-model as a way of monitoring their response to acquiring an unfamiliar model.

Fundamental or universal ways humans make sense of the world

‘Experience’ is a unified whole. Yet to be conscious of our map of the world we categorise, evaluate, compare, decide, reason, intuit, etc. All these processes require us to delete, distort and generalise (Bandler & Grinder). The most common way to do this is to make use of one domain – usually our everyday experience of the physical world – to make sense of another domain, usually the non-physical world, e.g Metaphors. Five Stages of a Modelling Project

Stage 1: Preparing for your Modelling Project

modelling-projectYour first task is to define your modelling project by specifying its:

Overall Outcome: What results have you noticed other people achieve in the world that you would also like to achieve?

Sensory specific evidence of completion: How will you know you have got these results?

(How will others know you have got these results?)

Scope, Time scale: Breadth of project – what is included and what is not

Contexts in which you (and others) want the results

Definition of terms the exemplar uses

Value to you: What’s important to you about being able to consistently reproduce the results specified above?

Exemplars: Who consistently demonstrates the results you want? How will you get access to such people?

Presuppositions: What are you presupposing to be true before you start?

What metaphors are you using to describe your project?


Stage 2: Gathering information from your exemplars

Types and reliability of information

It is important to distinguish between different types of information gathered from the exemplar. The following five are in descending order of reliability of information:

  1. Observed behaviour with sufficient repetitions to indicate a pattern
  2. Observed behaviour with insufficient repetitions to indicate a pattern

iii. ‘Relived’ descriptions or role-playing by the exemplar of what they do

  1. Explanation by the exemplar (i.e. the exemplar’s conscious model of what they do)
  2. Second-hand descriptions

Ways to gather information

  • ‘Live’ observation of exemplar achieving their results (by 3rd position observation and 2nd position shadowing)
  • Video or audio tapes, or material written by the exemplar which demonstrates achieving the required results
  • Face-to-face interview
  • Role-plays and mini-scenarios
  • Questionnaires
  • ‘Unofficial’ observations
  • Written information edited or co-written by someone else
  • Description by someone else, e.g. biography
  • The general rule is, the closer (and more often) you get to observe the exemplar achieving the results in their ‘natural habitat’ the better.

While gathering information it is preferable that you model the Talent’s behaviour and description so that you can ask questions from within the logic of their information.

High-quality modelling questions tend to:

  • Make minimal presuppositions about the content of Talent’s map
  • Be short and contain a minimal number of non-Talent words. i.e adopt clean language that doesn’t include words based on your interpretation of the Talent’s experience.
  • Be simple and ask for one class of experience at a time
  • Invite the Talent to remain in the appropriate state to demonstrate what they do, i.e. in the ‘perceptual present’
  • Relate to the project outcome
  • Invite the Talent’s attention to move towards the boundary of what they already know, and then to stretch the boundary into areas of yet-to-be-aware-of
  • Not ask the Talent’s attention to jump too far (in space or time)
  • Not get ‘no’ or disagreement for an answer.

‘Standard’ Modelling Questions

Every question directs the Talent’s attention to somewhere, when or what in their mind body map. So it is important to know the type or class of information you what (i.e. to have an outcome for each question) and to what your question is inviting the Talent’s attention to do. The following are examples of some commonly used modelling questions.

  1. Developingpre-existing information

And is there anything else about …?

And what kind of …?

And where/whereabouts is …?

And what’s the relationship between … and …?

  1. Context(s) where and when Talent commonly achieves the results?

Where do you …?

When do you …?

  1. Desired outcome(s) the Talent is attempting to achieve at the time

(Also, how is the outcome represented?)

For what purpose do you …?

  1. Primary and Secondary strategies performed internally and externally to achieve the outcome

(Also, what inputs are attended to while performing these operations?)

How specifically do you do that?

What’s the first thing you do …?

Then what do you do?

What do you do next?

And then what happens?

And what happens just before you …?

And what if this step X doesn’t get you the desired results…?

And what if you realise at this point X, that you are in trouble with regards to your outcome…?

  1. Evidence criteria/ test of progress toward and completion of outcome

How do you know you are achieving …?

How do you know you have achieved …?

What let’s you know to …?

What determines when you …?

  1. Motivation for having outcome and enablers for doing the operations

What’s important to you about …?

What’s important about that [answer to previous question]?

What makes it possible for you to …?

And where does … come from?

  1. Range of choices available to the Talent

(What does the Talent do in unexpected situations, when they encounter difficulties, interference or distractions – especially when these might affect whether they achieve their outcome?)

What do you do if it doesn’t go well / doesn’t work?

How do you know to stop trying to achieve …?


Stage 3: Constructing Your Model

When modelling multiple Talents for a class of experience, one process for constructing your general model is to:

  1. Describehow each Talent does what they do to get the required results from their perspective and in their words; i.e. construct a model using their representations.
  2. Evaluateeach model (to know what extra information to gather) for:

Completeness – It has all necessary distinctions/components (it’s ‘full’)

It answers ‘what else?’ questions with … “nothing “.

Coherency – The relationships between components adhere to an internal logic (they ‘cling together’).

It answers ‘why?’ questions from within its own logic.

Consistency – It does its job across a range of contexts and acquirers (it ‘stands firm’).

It can answer ‘what if?’ questions.

  1. Compare and contrastindividual models component-by-component, step-by-step and function-by-function.
  2. Design your own modelby one or more of the following methods.

(At this point you must separate the information gathered from the Talent: It is no longer their model, it becomes your model because you will represent the information in a different way.)

  1. Identify similarities across Talents and construct a compositemodel based on similarities.
  2. Use one of the models as a prototypeand improve it by adding/ substituting distinctions/ components/ steps from the other models.
  3. Deconstruct the individual models into the function of each component/stage and constructa new model from the bottom-up.
  4. Adaptexisting models from other contexts that are compatible with the model you are constructing, and use them as the framework for your model (e.g. ‘transformational grammar’ was the basis for the Meta Model, and ‘self-organising systems theory’ formed the framework for Symbolic Modelling).
  5. Evaluate and improveyour model based on the degree to which it is:

Effective – It gets similar results to the Talent.

Efficient – It requires the least number of steps/components

Elegant – It is code congruent – the content of the model and the manner in which it is presented/ coded are congruent.

  1. Test, get feedback, adjust model, test again, get feedback, adjust …

More on Model Construction

Evaluate whether distinctions/components go into the model by the degree to which each is:

Effective – contributes to the overall outcome of the model

Efficient – serves multiple functions

Elegant – fits into the overall coherency (internal code congruency) and enhances the consistency (external code congruency) of the model.

Evaluate the completeness of your model by the degree to which it shows ‘Operational closure’:

  • When no new components or patterns emerge and the client’s descriptions add no further information about how that operational unit works.
  • When new components or examples continue to appear but they are isomorphic (have the same function or organisation) as previously identified patterns.
  • When the logic of the client’s description encompasses an entire configuration, a complete sequence or a coherent set of premises (with no logical gaps).
  • When the model enables you to predict ways of dealing with unexpected situations, difficulties, interference or distractions that have yet to be mentioned by the Talent.
  • When you repeat or demonstrate the operational unit to the Talent, they acknowledge that’s it, you got it .

Evaluate your model for its congruency with:

Stage 2: The Talent(s)

Stage 3: Itself

Stage 4: The context where it will be tested

Stage 5: The acquirer(s)

Talent’s cannot not do their patterns of excellence

A key aspect of modelling is to determine how an Talent keeps achieving the same results. How is it that they cannot not do it? How come they don’t forget to do it? How do they adjust for unfavourable circumstances so that they consistently get excellent results? In other words, how come it’s habitual? This information will not be in any of the components, but in the pattern of relationships between perceptual components. It will be the circular chains (Bateson) of relationships that keep the pattern repeating. And your model needs to have comparable circular chains.

Except when ..

Conditions are ‘extreme’ or ‘over thresholds’ or ‘off the scale’ and the pattern breaks down. What are those conditions and what do Talents do then? Considering ‘Is there any way I can I run this model and do something else?’ and ‘Under what circumstances would I not get the required results? ‘. Then adapting your model to take these circumstances into account will make it more robust, more consistent.

Stage 5: Acquiring the Model

Over the history of NLP the metaphors used to describe Stage 5 have changed from:

Installation of the model by the modeller in the acquirer to


Transmission of the model by the modeller to the acquirer to

Acquisition of the model by the acquirer (facilitated by the modeller).

Interestingly, these changes seem to parallel a general trend within NLP; that is, the focus of the practitioner-client relationship is moving away from the practitioner and towards the client. Continuing this trend, our preference is for the acquirer (to be facilitated) to self-model their own process of acquiring.

Acquiring presents a paradox: The Talent gets their results largely through unconscious processes, but the acquirer initially acquires the model and uses it consciously. This is a double paradox when the skill being modelled has to be unconscious, e.g. an intuitive signal.

Generalised process for acquisition

Starting with a thorough understanding and experience of using your model:

  1. Gather information about the acquirer’s outcome, the context where they want the required results, and their existing map in relation to the model to be acquired.
  2. Where possible, modify your model to align with the acquirer’s existing map.
  3. Design an acquisition process that includes multiple descriptions and is congruent with both the model and the Talent’s map.
  4. Facilitate (or make available) the acquisition process.
  5. Utilise acquirers responses – preferably in the moment – as feedback to adapt the process of acquisition to the acquirer’s existing model of the world and metaphors.
  6. Test: to what degree do the results the acquirers get match those of the Talents?

Some ways to present your model to an acquirer are to:

  • Enact the activity of each step of the sequence
  • Map components’ location and their relationships/functions
  • Chart the flow of information and decision points
  • Physicalise or using non-verbal metaphor (Dance/Movement)
  • Tell stories and analogies
  • Write description and examples

Facilitating the acquisition process

Your primary aim is not for the acquirer to acquire your model. Your model is only a means to an end. Your joint aim is for the acquirer to reproduce the specified results.

As much as possible the acquirer needs to fully experience the model as they acquire it. So pay attention to whether the acquirer is replicating the model in their own mind-space and body. i.e.

Do they describe it in the correct order?

Do they gesture, look and move as specified by the model?

Do they use the same or equivalent descriptions and metaphors?

Not all components of the model will be equally important for the acquirer to acquire. Often a single piece will make a big difference.

Acquiring is an iterative process. Acquirers need both big chunk information (how the model all fits together as a whole and its purpose) and small chunk information (what to do).

Different acquirers will prefer to start with different aspects of the model. For example, they might first like to get know all the bits and what they do; or how the bits fit together and relate to each other; or the order in which things happen; or where and how they can use it.

Time, repetition and multiple descriptions are useful allies.

Common responses to acquisition

According to Gordon & Dawes there are 5 common ways people do not acquire a new model (assuming they want to). In effect they indicate:

I can’t get out of my present model

I can’t get into the new model

I can’t make sense of the model

I am concerned about the consequences of taking on the model

The model does not fit with who I am

One way to respectfully respond to this type of feedback is to facilitate the acquirer to self-model what is happening that means they are not acquiring the model (including how you are presenting it):

  1. Fully acknowledge the way it is for them.
  2. Confirm that they still want to achieve the required results.
  3. Facilitate them to discover:

Where the mismatch between the existing and the new model is what is making that mismatch possible and what is maintaining it?

When they were in similar situations and how they resolved these.

What needs to happen to resolve it now.

Other metaphors/descriptions/representational systems that will enable the acquirer to achieve the required results.

What are other circumstances where they could use the model

What ‘platform’ knowledge, skills or experiences are prerequisites

Notes on Expert to Novice Acquisition (24 Nov 2006)

Almost by definition, Talents are experts, while acquirers are novices.

The model you construct will be of an expert who will have years of experience and lots of unconscious habitual strategies. With some much happening unconsciously, the Talent has spare capacity to pay (conscious) attention to other things that are happening. For example, comprehending is a completely unconscious process for a native speaker, and hence they can attend to puns, patterns, double meanings and all sorts of subtle communication that is not available to the novice second-language learner. (cf. Gregory Bateson: as behaviour is repeated it becomes ever more deeply embedded in the organism, i.e. pushed down the levels of organisation)

An acquirer does not have the same level of experience and so the acquisition process has to act as a bridge from the expert’s way of doing things and the novice’s. To do this you may well need to add in some extra steps that are not part of your Talent’s model (nor, if you have multiple Talents, your composite model). The NLP Spelling Strategy is a good example. This model includes a step where the acquirer spells the word they are learning backwards ( Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, Introducing NLP (1990) page 182) despite the fact expert spellers never do this. So why is it is in the strategy?

When they first tried to teach the strategy to poor spellers, they found that even though they learned it, they did not believe this was enough to become a good speller. So someone had the bright idea of getting them to spell the words they were learning backwards on the basis that “If you can spell the word backwards, you know spelling it forwards will be easy.” So for the spelling strategy to be useful an extra ‘convincer’ step had to be added. (A second advantage of the backwards spelling step is that it allows the facilitator to very easily calibrate whether the acquirer is using the required visual accessing or reverting to the less efficient auditory method – with the latter it’s almost impossible to spell words backwards)

You also might want to add extra steps to prepare an acquirer to access a state that the Talent switches into naturally. For example, Penny Tompkins was modelled for her ability to “notice a client’s nonverbal cues and subtle presuppositions of logic” when she is in therapy or coaching mode. Penny can instantly “clear my mind” and be in a very open and receptive state. She suggested that if someone else wanted to acquire her noticing ability then they might modified the SWISH technique so that they could move away all the stuff that is present for them until it is a dot on the horizon, and in it’s place to bring back a “clear space” in which the client and their stuff can be situated.



What is the goal?

Being the best trainer



What you need to do?

Being able to deliver superb trainings

In the context of psychology and NLP

Environment: Training center, new & experienced learners of psychology.

Examples 1.   The Corporate training I did for Truck Company

2.   Practitioner workshop

3.   The 2 day workshop at Manchester


What is imp to take from the ability

1)   Simple to understand by someone with no knowledge of NLP

2)   Interesting from beginning to end. Not boring.

3)   Keeping it light and entertaining – videos, etc.

4)   Factual and authentic information. Audience should feel that.


Kind of experience that explains criteria

·  Even a person with absolutely zero knowledge, a dumb person who is not interested in psychology should find it easy to grasp and relate to their life.

·  People should forget tea and loo breaks and urge me to go on without breaks



What do you see, hear and feel?

·  Their facial expressions, head nodding, eyes going wide/ bright, smiling,

·  Asking questions, sharing personal experiences, participating, discussing amongst themselves, laughing, exclamations, ‘ahaa’ moment.

·  Approaching me during break times for doubts and sharing experiences


Enabling C&E:

Pre requisites

·  Must think through and chart my flow of concepts and points from beginning to end

·  Rough sense of timing for each module and total time for the workshop

·  Examples for each concept

·  Rehearsal [if it’s a new topic]. Sometimes detailed, sometimes brief

·  Must have a clear understanding of relevancy of each concept to the audience

·  Courseware


Motivating C&E:

Why is this imp to you?


·  Appreciation, Recognition. Being the most knowledgeable and experienced in NLP

·  Satisfaction of bringing smiles and changes in people’s lives

·  Learning concepts better and remembering finer details through teaching

·  Learning new ways of applying NLP concepts in real world


Primary Strategy:

How do you go about motivating yourself to go to gym?

·  Is it a new topic or something I have trained earlie?

·  Do I have the program flow (from past) or do I need to create it. Revisit the flow again and again based on better understanding of the concepts

·  Read up information on the internet. Make rough notes. Read and re-read notes and more articles to refine my understanding of the concept.

·  How to make it simple for someone for NO knowledge of NLP? Break concepts down…simplify them…identify metaphors that are easy to relate for anyone.

·  Imagine audience members: do I see desired evidence? NO: more simplification, more examples.

·  Rehearse and dry run. Occasionally, keep track of time…how am I progressing during dry run? How do I modify the script to fit into available time?

·  Keep updating the flow

·  On the event day: quick look at the flow…”these people have paid money to get a fantastic experience of their life. I must give them more than their worth and expectations”

·  Be conscious of my own energy level, vocal energy and audience involvement.


Secondary strategy:

What if primary strategy fails?

·  Do whatever level of preparations possible within available time. Quick look at the flow is a must.

·  If running short of time, cover the concepts faster. Lesser exercises.

·  Stretch the event schedule and make sure people have grasped it correctly.

·  Ask questions to increase interactions with and amongst audience.

·  Ask one audience member to volunteer and explain concept to another person who hasn’t understood

·  Give more examples if audience hasn’t understood clearly

·  More demos


Signaling emotions:

How do I feel when I am oncourse?

·  Discomfort when people look blank. Facial expressions not giving desired signals.

·  Feeling worried when people look tired and drained

·  Energised and pleased when people are feeling energized.


Sustaining emotions:

What feeling needs to be there throughout?

·  Powerful and in control

·  Calm but energized – living my passion. “this is what I wanted so badly”


What is my physiology?

·  Calm and slow pacing of the training floor

·  Relaxed breathing

·  Loud voice – depending on the hall size and no. of audience members

·  Occasional deep breathing, to increases pauses and let the concept sink in.

·  Open hand gestures.



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