How to do a Modelling Project - Section 3
What is a Modelling Project?
Modelling is a process whereby an observer, the modeller, gathers
information about the activity of a system with the aim of
constructing a generalised description (a model) of how that system
works. The model can then be used by the modeller and others to
inform decisions and actions.
The purpose of modelling is to identify
'what is' and how 'what is' works to produce the observed results - without influencing what is being
modelled. The modeller begins with an open mind, a blank sheet and an
outcome to discover the way a system functions - without attempting
to change it.
[Note: We recognise this is an
impossible outcome, since the observer, by simply observing,
inevitably influences the person being observed. However this does
not affect the intention of a modeller to not influence.]
Steven Pinker in How the Mind Works (p. 21) uses an analogy from
the world of business to define psychology, but he could just as
easily be describing the modelling process:
Psychology is engineering in reverse.
In forward-engineering, one designs a machine to do something; in
reverse-engineering, one figures out what a machine was designed to
do. Reverse-engineering is what the boffins at Sony do when a new
product is announced by Panasonic, or vice versa. They buy one, bring
it back to the lab, take a screwdriver to it, and try to figure out
what all the parts are for and how they combine to make the device
Pinker is not saying that people are machines. He is saying the
process of making a model of human language, behaviour and perception
can be likened to the process of reverse-engineering.
When 'the system' being observed is a person, what usually gets
modelled is behaviour that can be seen or heard (sensory modelling),
or thinking processes that are described through language (conceptual
modelling). Figuring out how great tennis players serve is an example
of the former, while identifying their beliefs and strategies for
winning is an example of the latter.
The field of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
was established as a result of several modelling projects conducted
by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They, in collaboration with others such as
Judith DeLozier, Leslie Cameron-Bandler, David Gordon, Robert Dilts did much of the original work to codify the process of modelling sensory and conceptual domains.
[Note added 2012: A more extensive list of collaborators is given in The Origins of Neuro Linguistic Programming edited by John Grinder & Frank Pucelik]
We used sensory and conceptual modelling to study David Grove at
work, and as a result discovered a new way of modelling never
previously documented which we called Symbolic Modelling.
[See Metaphors in Mind: Transformation
through Symbolic Modelling by James
Lawley and Penny Tompkins]
Definition of terms
The outcome (of a pattern of behaviour) which can be described in
sensory specific terms.
An abstract formulation constructed from the information
gathered from modelling the exemplar(s) which when actioned
by an acquirer produces a similar class of results.
The person (or group or organisation) that consistently
achieves the results the modeller is seeking to reproduce.
(In the early days of NLP, also
referred to as 'a model'.)
The person who gathers information from the exemplar,
constructs the model, and tests its effectiveness,
efficiency, elegance and ethics at reproducing similar results
(usually by first acquiring the model themselves). Sometimes they then
facilitate others to acquire the model.
The person (usually including the modeller) who 'takes
on' the model and attempts to reproduce results similar to
those obtained by the exemplar. The acquisition process usually needs to be facilitated by an accompanying narrative, metaphors and activities.
The process of gathering information from an exemplar,
constructing a model, and testing its effectiveness at
reproducing similar results (which requires someone to
have acquired it). See diagram below.
Both the plan for accomplishing the production and
acquisition of a model, and the implementation of that plan.
We distinguish five stages that do not necessarily happen in this order:
1. Preparing to model
2. Gathering information
3. Constructing a model
4. Testing the model
5. Acquiring the model
The process of a person constructing a model of how they
achieve the results they get.
Facilitating the exemplar to
self-model in Stage 2 is often a very efficient way of
gathering information. At Stages 3 and 4, the modeller
self-models as a way of making explicit the out-of-awareness
information they have gathered. During Stage 5, the acquirer
can self-model as a way of monitoring their response to
acquiring an unfamiliar model.
[NOTE: A light bulb moment occurred when we grasped the implication of Michael Brean's statement (at the London NLP Group in about 1993): "All modelling is self-modelling."]
Five Stages of a Modelling Project
Fundamental or universal ways humans make sense of the world
'Experience' is a unified whole. Yet to
be conscious of our map of
the world we categorise, evaluate,
compare, decide, reason, intuit,
etc. These processes require us
to delete, distort and generalise
(Bandler & Grinder). The most
common way to do this is to
use one domain - usually our
everyday experience of the physical
world - to make sense of another
domain, usually the non-physical
world. In other words, we use
metaphor (Lakoff & Johnson). The
most commonly used metaphors,
which appear to form the basis of all
Sequence of events defined by a before, a
during, and an
of a Sequence of Events
The attributes or qualities by which
perceived, and at the same time, distinguished
things, i.e. how it is known. The content of our
The someone who is perceiving the
something. To do this
the perceiver needs a 'means of
hearing, feeling and other ways of
sensing) and a 'point of
perception' (where the perception
is perceived from). The
perceiver is therefore always in a
certain relationship with
the form of the perceived within a
given context (time and
[Note: This model is
David Grove's "Observer-Observed-Relationship between" and
John McWhirter's "FROM-TO-IN" models.]
Levels are a means of ordering and categorising experience in a hierarchy. They are
therefore usually referred to as 'Levels of' something e.g. Learning, Organization, Abstraction, Explanation, etc.