Part I: The Freshening Wind

Chapter 2: Terminology

Neuro-Linguistic Programming NLP

(NLP) is a modeling technology whose specific subject matter is the set of differences that make the difference between the performance of geniuses and that of average performers in the same field or activity. In this sense, the objective of modeling studies in NLP is to explicate in a transferable and learnable code these sets of differences. 1 The core activity, then, is the mapping of tacit knowledge onto an explicit model. This meta-discipline was created by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in the early 70's.

Modeling, Application or Design

In actual usage over the last several decades, the term NLP has come to refer to the general set of activities that includes not only modeling, but applications of the product of the core activity of modeling - the patterns of excellence coded from the sets of differences discovered - as well as the teaching and training of these patterns. In part, the drift in the meaning is a measure of the ineffectiveness of the co-creators to make clear and precise what NLP is.

The required distinction is the same as the distinction between physics and engineering, or medical research and clinical practice, or chemistry and pharmacology. Physics, for example, is the study of the patterns that govern the physical phenomena about us. Such studies over centuries have resulted in the coding of certain patterns, principles, laws of nature… An engineer designing a bridge will draw upon this body of tested and verified patterning (especially the computational formulae) to carry out his work. He is said to be applying the principles of physics in order to work how specifically the bridge should be constructed. Physics - the study of the fundamental patterns of physical phenomena - can be applied in multiple instances from bridge building to the design of extraterrestrial vehicles. Such examples are applications of physics, pure and simple.

Comparably, the modeling of geniuses done by Grinder and Bandler created the field of NLP, resulting in a series of models of excellence. These models coded patterns that govern the patterns of interactions among people in certain contexts (change work, hypnosis…). A business consultant addressing a challenge within a client company will draw upon the patterns. She will be said to be applying this body of tested and verified patterns in order to determine how specifically to resolve the challenge. NLP - the study of the fundamental patterns of excellence in human performance - can be applied (in the context of business practice, for example) to management practice, strategic planning, personnel, recruitment, new product design… Such examples are applications of NLP, pure and simple.

The meta model can, for example, be usefully understood to be an application of the modeling of linguistic patterning inspired by Transformational Grammar.

It is important to note that in the coding of a large number of patterns in the initial modeling done by Grinder and Bandler is a set of variables. These variables (for example, state), inherent in each of the coded models, constitute an initial vocabulary out of which the patterning of excellence is composed. Such variables may function as the design variables for creating and testing additional patterns. While these may be largely variations on the patterning initially discovered and coded by Bandler and Grinder, it is possible to use them to develop genuinely new patterning and models. The new code (covered in Part II under The New Code) is an excellent example of pure design, a pure manipulation of these variables. Thus, we identify the distinction between modeling and design.

Indeed, from our limited point of view, there is little activity in the general field known as NLP modeling that strictly speaking should be so labeled. In fact, part of the motivation for writing this book is our concern that unless the distinction we are presently proposing is recognized and more importantly, the activity of modeling becomes in fact a significant activity of what is loosely called NLP, the technology of modeling that produced such powerful patterning will simply fade away. It is, for example, almost impossible to attend a high quality management seminar in the USA or Western Europe without encountering any number of NLP coded patterns of excellence such as representational systems or much of the verbal patterning. Thus, unless renewed activity in modeling and the coding of new patterning of excellence becomes the touchstone for NLP, then it is quite likely that the patterns of excellence initially modeled and coded will simply be incorporated in the various applications areas. Once such an integration is completed, there will be no justification for anything called NLP.

Thus we are faced in this book with a difficult linguistic issue - how shall we refer to NLP and its various activities. If we adopt the common usage of the term NLP, the critical point concerning modeling is lost. If we insist on the distinction between NLP modeling and NLP application, we are swimming upstream in the river of usage.

So, may we swim strongly! …