• Posted: October 2012
  • Comments: 1

Strategies 2007

A statement from John Grinder regarding strategies in NLP

Strategies – ordered sequences of representational system access for achieving specific outcomes – are the remnants of a project I started in the mid to late 70’s. My objective was to explore the possibility that representational systems provided an adequate vocabulary for capturing some significant part of what I referred then to as the Syntax of Behaviour project (also the name of a four seminar sequence that Dilts and I did together - there are tapes of this joint effort available through Metamorphous Press).  I abandoned this project or more precisely the consideration of ordered sequences of representational system access when two things became obvious to me:

Strategies are not a particular useful or effective leverage point for the
replication of genius or the patterning of geniuses – this is likely the historical confusion between strategy elicitation and installation and NLP modelling itself. As anyone who has actually done elicitation and installation work has experienced – this is a tail wagging the dog phenomenon – that is, the careful accurate elicitation of a strategy followed by the installation of the elicited sequence does NOT replicate the patterning of the genius being modelled. The key leverage point turns out to be STATE – indeed, if the state of the genius is captured through unconscious assimilation, it typically includes the strategy (or functionally equivalent ones more congruent with the modeller’s development. The inverse is patently NOT true – that is, the installation of the carefully and accurately elicited strategy does NOT typically evoke the state in the modeller that corresponds to the state in the model – thus, failing to replicate the genius’ performance. I suspect that the popularity of the strategy elicitation and installation is in part due to the fact that it is a relatively rational and left-brain-oriented activity, is primarily an observational activity and requires little commitment on the part of the ‘wannabe’ modeller.

I offer a significantly more radical critique of strategies: let’s begin with a strategy that has been proven extremely useful (especially in children) and is a fine contribution by Robert Dilts, its author. What Robert noticed was that an excellent speller (he is one, for example) followed an ordered sequence of representational systems as defined by the sequence of systematic eye movements. If you take a child, establish rapport and inductively walk that child through rehearsals of Visual Memory > Kinesthetic verification to the point that they can do it without your prompting them (20 minutes maximum is typical for children – adults tend to be a bit slower), their spelling performance will quickly close on 100% effectiveness (note – only for words actually seen and identified previously (an entirely distinct “strategy” is required for spelling words not seen and identified previously). I especially like Robert’s cleverness in noticing that if the visual image of the word to be spelled is really well-developed and stable, the speller should be able to spell the word backwards with ease. Insisting on this as part of the rehearsal (installation) ensures that the speller actually forms a visual image of the word to be spelled that is stable enough that the entire process works very well.

Here is the problem: the claim in the spelling strategy is that the visual image of the word occurs 1st and the kinesthetic check to ensure by feelings (actually synesthesia circuitry) that the visual image is correct (or not). I challenge that sequence V and then K. I propose that what is actually going on (and this would be easy enough to verify with brain scanning equipment) is that the image and the feeling arrive simultaneously and it is an ARTIFACT that we experience them as occurring in sequence. I propose more specifically that the illusion of sequence is the consequence of the limitations of conscious attention. Although both representations are present, the limitations of the 7 + or – 2 chunks of conscious attention ensure that we will entertain only one of them at the same point in time. If this is accurate, then all the activities in NLP revolving around strategies is actually a set of studies in the consequences of the artifacts of the limitations in conscious attention. The illusion is strong and in the particular case of the spelling strategy harmless and the results of installing such a strategy is excellent and I endorse it. My point is that if we as the people creating such models fail to appreciate what is actually going on, the enterprise is at least shaky in its foundations. While I recommend that Dilts’ work with the spelling strategy be offered to children everywhere (that is, everywhere where the natural language is one where there is a significant difference between the orthography (written representations) and the auditory representation differ significantly – notice in Spanish speaking countries, spelling is NOT a part of the school curriculum as there is such a precise mapping between the sounds of Spanish and its written form, that it is unnecessary), I urge a systematic investigation of the actual or illusionary sequencing to ensure that the enterprise has some relationship with what is actually going on.

These are the arguments that I find compelling and the invitation to explore the foundations of strategies – I am, of course, proposing that the sequence is an illusion – before making the assumption that strategies have anything to offer to the study of the patterning of genius – the appropriate focus of NLP in my opinion.

John Grinder

July 2007
Bonny Doon, California

Bookmark and Share

Leave a comment

Commenting is not available in this section entry.