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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 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. We support this trend, since our preference is for the acquirer (to be facilitated) to self-model their own process of acquiring.

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 acquisition process.

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 results 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 the sequence

Map components, their location, their functions and their relationships

Chart the flow of information and decision points

Physicalise or use non-verbal metaphor (Dance/Movement)

Tell stories and analogies

Write descriptions and give examples

Facilitating the acquisition process

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 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. 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 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, 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 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 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 now?

What other metaphors/descriptions/representational systems will enable the acquirer to achieve the required results?

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. The NLP 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 - with the latter it is really difficult to spell words backwards.)

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 have the same effect.

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