How to do a Modelling Project - Section 8
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
Transmission of the model by the modeller to the acquirer
Acquisition of the model by the acquirer (facilitated by the
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. We support this trend, since our preference is for
the acquirer (to be facilitated) to self-model their own process of
Acquiring presents a paradox: The exemplar
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, their existing map in relation to the model to be
acquired, and their learning preferences.
2. Where possible, modify your model to align
with the acquirer's existing map as long as the integrity and essence of your model is retained.
3. Design an acquisition process that
includes multiple descriptions and is congruent with both the model
and the exemplar's map.
4. Facilitate (or make available) the
5. Utilise acquirers responses - preferably
in the moment - as feedback to adapt the process of acquisition to acquirer's model of the world and metaphors.
6. Test: to what degree do the
acquirers get match those of the exemplar?
Some ways to present your model to an
acquirer are to:
Enact the activity of each step
of a sequence
Map components, their location, their functions and their
Chart the flow of information and decision
Physicalise or use non-verbal metaphor
Tell stories and analogies
Write descriptions and give examples
Facilitating the acquisition
It may surprise you to realise that 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 be able to reproduce results similar to that of the original exemplar(s).
As much as possible the acquirer needs to
fully experience the model as they acquire it. So pay attention to, and calibrate
whether the acquirer is replicating the model in their own mind-space
and body. i.e.
Do they describe it in the correct
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. But you are unlikely to know in advance which one!
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
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, multiple descriptions and feedback
are useful co-teachers.
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 the acquirer indicates:
I can't get out of my present
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 is there a mismatch between the
existing and the new model?
What is making that mismatch possible and
what is maintaining it?
Have they been in a similar situation and what did they do then?
What needs to happen to resolve it
What other metaphors/descriptions/representational
systems will enable the acquirer to achieve the required
What are other circumstances where they could
use the model?
What knowledge, skills or
experiences need to be in place that will ease the acquirers' acquisition process?
Notes on Expert to Novice Acquisition
By definition, exemplars are
experts while acquirers are novices (cf. Dreyfus & Dreyfus).
Your exemplar will have years of experience and lots of unconscious
habitual strategies. With so much happening unconsciously, the
exemplar has spare capacity to pay (conscious) attention to other
things that are happening. For example, comprehending language 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 novice's way of doing things to the expert's way of doing things. To do
this you may well need to add in some extra steps that are not part
of your exemplar's model.
Spelling Strategy is a good
example (Joseph O'Connor and John Seymour, Introducing
NLP, 1990, p.182). This model includes a step where the acquirer spells the
word they are learning backwards despite the fact expert spellers
never do this. So why is it is in the strategy?
When the modellers first tried to teach the
spelling 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." This extra 'convincer' step was
added to make the
spelling strategy more effective. (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.)
So, you might need to add extra
steps to prepare an acquirer to access a state that the exemplar
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 but couldn't take on her instant process, they might modify the SWISH technique so
that they could temporarily move away all the stuff that is present for them
until it is a dot on the horizon, and in its place bring back a
"clear space" in which the client and their stuff
can be situated. Although this is not how Penny does it, it would probably reproduce a similar result.