NLP Modeling, finding the structure of excellence
NLP Modeling is the process of recreating excellence. We can model any human behavior by mastering the beliefs, the physiology and the specific thought processes (that is the strategies) that underlie the skill or behavior.

It is about achieving an outcome by studying how someone else goes about it.

When Richard Bandler and John Grinder modeled the strategies of Virginia Satir, they were trying to achieve what many others before them had attempted. They wanted to duplicate her extraordinary results in family therapy.

What Bandler and Grinder did differently was to find the thinking strategies she was using, rather than merely copy behaviors. The biggest problem interviewing experts is that skills are usually unconscious. We can not explain how we walk, talk or write for instance. What makes you a successful parent or golfer? The expert’s own theories explain their success. These theories can include irrelevant habits and superstitions such as sportsmen and their lucky socks.

John Grinder on Modeling

NLP Modeling involves transferring what an expert thinks they know and what they unconsciously know. It involves being able to produce the outcome and transferring the behavior to others.

The use of modeling in NLP does not just involve extraordinary skills. For example, you could model how someone keeps her desk clean. We can use the same key questions to find out how someone keeps himself depressed, or becomes frustrated.

There are three phases to modeling
Observing the model
This involves fully imagining yourself in someone else’s reality by using what NLP calls a second position shift.
The focus is on “what” the person does (behavior and physiology), “how” they do it (internal thinking strategies) and “why” they do it (supporting beliefs and assumptions).
We obtain the “what” from direct observation. The “how” and “why” is gained by asking quality questions. Deep trance identification is a powerful tool to accomplish this part of the process. It involves using unconscious clues to generate more information than can be obtained logically.
NLP modeling components
The NLP Techniques, skills and Presuppositions enable success in modeling. These involve observing the model’s:
Representational Systems
NLP Strategies
Physiological components (like states and body postures)
Meta Programs, beliefs and values
Reference structures – the necessary background knowledge
Find the difference that makes the difference
Traditional learning adds pieces of a skill one bit at a time until we have them all. The drawback to this method is we don’t know which bits are essential. By contrast modeling which is the basis of accelerated learning, gets all the elements and then subtracts to find what is necessary.
By systematically taking out elements of the model’s behavior, we can find what pieces are essential. If the process still works without that element, it is not relevant.
The important questions are:
What are the behavioral patterns of the successful person?
How does she achieve her results?
What did she do that is different from a person who is not successful?
What is the difference that makes the difference?
When you have all the pieces, you can refine and sequence the model.
Design a method to teach the skill
Until you have all the relevant pieces of a skill and the necessary sequence, you cannot teach it effectively. We currently teach many skills with extra background information and pieces muddying the waters.
Rehearsal of the natural sequence of the skill is important. If you tried to make a cake by putting it in the oven before mixing the ingredients together, it would be yucky. Yet we think we can teach separate elements of skills out of sequence and out of context and succeed.
NLP Modeling is a powerful process that can accelerate learning of skills. Strong modeling practices are the basis of good NLP training.

Futher Reading: NLP Going Meta: Advanced Modelling using Meta Levels by L. Michael Hall