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Modelling What Works

"NLP Solutions"
Sue Knight, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, £12.99pb, 259pp

Review by Mark McKergow

Sue Knight's previous book "NLP At Work" has long been a favourite recommendation of mine to NLP newcomers wanting ideas to use in a business context. Would her latest work, subtitled How to Model What Works in Business to Make it Work for You, match up?

By taking modelling as her central theme, Sue Knight has finally grasped the nettle which has deterred so many in the past. NLP has always been about, and the result of, modelling. Yet I can think of no single mainstream NLP book which really addresses this strand, although Martin Roberts' recent pieces for Rapport and Robert Dilts' "Modelling with NLP" are starting to examine it. However, I find it somewhat ironic that a business book is finally the one to appear. Perhaps business folk are more concerned with results than with theoretical purity, in contrast to some other professions? This book is very clearly about results first, and technique in support of results, rather than instead of them.

The book is structured in two parts. The first deals with the Modelling Process itself, while the second examines various Applications of NLP to Business. I think this is a pretty shrewd juxtaposition - the enthusiasts for process can enjoy the first part, while those who may yet to be convinced of the power of their own thinking can go straight to a relevant place in the second. And while there's not much NLP that's new, the whole thing is alive with Sue's stories, examples and anecdotes which help the reader build their understanding.

The section on the modelling process starts off nicely with the idea that modelling is something which effective people do anyway. The chapter on "How to Model" addresses the kinds of things which might be interesting to a modeller (thoughts, beliefs, actions), and a bit on how to go about modelling - including asking your subject to do the business rather than talk about it. TOTE patterns are also included here. We then move on to "thinking about thinking", filters and metaprograms, including big/small chunk, past/present/future and many others. VAK is addressed in terms of thinking styles too, with nice up-to-date examples from racing driver Michael Shumacher.

VAK comes into the next chapter on language as well, which draws attention to the fundamentally metaphorical nature of language. Sue gives some good modelling questions here, keeping a balance between practicalilty and the "big ideas". Finally, neurological levels is presented as a good framework for modelling. I particularly like the "extra" bit here on "environmental metamessages" - the ways in which small details of offices can speak volumes about the culture of the organisation for better or worse.

The applications section starts with some general and well made observations about the context which NLP occupies in the business sector. Sue Knight goes on to examine teams, selling, training, coaching, telemarketing and leadership through her NLP lens. As ever, these sections are packed with real-life case studies which help bring the material to life as well as pointing up Sue's experience and authority.

Sue has retained the jargon-free style and good visual presentation of her first book, and this work is easy to read and navigate. It is well aimed at a wide market - a good place for new or newish readers to start, and maybe not one for the archbishops. I was glad to see eye accessing cues relegated to an appendix - maybe next time we can go one step further and leave it out altogether?

So, Sue Knight hits the target once again. Finally we have a book focussed on modelling - the key part of NLP, and not always the most obvious - for the informed leader and manager. It's crammed with great examples from actual organisations, and places NLP in context alongside MBTI, TQM and other existing ideas. The book deserves a place in any forward-thinking manager's schedule.

This review was originally published in NLP World Vol 6 No 2 pp 81 - 82 (1999)