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DeLozier, Judith & Grinder, John, Turtles All The Way Down: Prerequisites to Personal Genius (Grinder, DeLozier and Associates, 1987)

Fine, Gary & Deegan, James, “Three Principles of Serendip: Insight, Chance, and Discovery in Qualitative Research”. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Vol 9, Issue 4, Oct 1996, pp 434-447

Gladwell, Malcom, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Allen Lane, 2005)

Gritton, Jim, “Of Serendipity, Free Association and Aimless Browsing: Do They Lead to Serendipitous Learning?”

Johnson, Steven B, ‘Can We Please Kill This Meme Now?’ (2006)

Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (3rd Ed., Chicago, 1996)

Mendonca, Sandro, et. al. "Unsought Innovation: Serendipity in Organizations" presented to Danish Research Unit for Industrial Dynamics, 25th Conference, 2008.

Roberts, Royston M, Serendipity: Accidental Discoveries in Science (Wiley, 1989)

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Penguin, 2008)

Tavris, Carol & Aronson, Elliot, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts (2008).


1 Sagacious - having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgment.  From Latin sagax, ‘wise’

2 Robert Merton (1968) as quoted by Fine and Deegan. There must have been many potentially serendipitous events that were never recognised as such — we’d wage many more than were actually recognised.

3 In a client-facilitator context this part of the model owes a debt of gratitude to Milton Erickson’s notion of ‘utilisation’.

4 Ethnography - The scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures. Accounts of how ethnographers work sound remarkably similar to how Symbolic Modellers work.  At times one could be forgiven for forgetting that the main difference is that ethnographers work in real cultures and Symbolic Modellers work with metaphoric ones.

5 Wits - Comes from the Scandinavian “manvit: intelligence manifested as common sense, shrewdness, and flexibility” (Wax, 1971 quoted in Fine and Deegan)

6 In Symbolic Modelling an analogy with the ethnographic relationship is the relationship between the facilitator and symbols in the client’s Metaphor Landscape.

7 These processes should be familiar to the Symbolic Modeller — “juxtaposition” (adjacency); “reference query” (clean question); “surfacing hidden analogies” (bringing unconscious metaphors into awareness).

8 Quoted in ‘Trusting Therapists’ Intuition’, editorial in Psychotherapy Networker (May-June 2008, pp. 16-17).

9 See our paper 'Cognitive Dissonance and Creative Tension — the same or different?' (Oct 2009),

Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
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Symbolic Modelling

James Lawley
Penny Tompkins

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