OODA Loop and NLP?

What sort of answer would you think I would get when comparing the OODA Loop to NLP or the long name, Neuro-Linguistic Programming. I asked that question of  Tom MacKay, the founder of MacKay Solutions. Tom trained as a psychologist and in NLP in 1990 and since then  has become one of the most respected NLP  trainers in the UK. Tom is a Master Trainer of NLP, the highest level that can be attained and is the only INLPTA Master Coach Trainer in the UK.

Joe:  The reason I bring that up because a lot of what he had structured, the OODA loop is really a decision-making process and the orientation part of it seems to me to have some basis in NLP actually. There seems to be a lot of familiarity in that area, it’s adjusting your mental model. It is a systems type thinking where you are adjusting your mental model to the surrounding environment, and how quickly that you adapt is the ability whether you win or not (he was a fighter pilot).

I think that’s what I hear resonate from you, is that recognizing, just the recognition of what your mental model is, and what may be the other guy’s mental model is that recognition is the key point, so NLP gives you a much, in a business standpoint, superior advantage over someone that isn’t as savvy, that maybe doesn’t recognize these states as well.

Tom:  I think that’s a very good way of putting it, which, like you said, it’s, NLP really is, fundamentally, about exploring the mental models. There’s one technique in NLP which we call “Triple Description, ” or another name for it is, “Perceptual Positions”, where, when we’re exploring communication with somebody else, we want to take on three different positions. The first position is, basically, your own perspective. So, it’s like, knowing what you want, which a lot of people are very clear about, but, as well as knowing what you want, you have to know what’s going on with the other person.

So, we talk about “Second Position”. The second position, that’s really entering into the other person’s world. What you want to do with that is, it’s almost like you pretend you’re an actor, and you can step into that person. It’s beyond just imagining what they want, but it’s really kind of imagining that you are them. You’ve probably heard the expression, “To know somebody, you need to able to walk a mile in their moccasins.” It’s really taking on board, if we can imagine actually being that person and particularly in situations where there’s some sort of conflict or hostility, where we feel we can’t get through to this person. If you can imagine what’s going on for them, you can get some real discoveries.

A client of mine in business, they thought that their boss just didn’t like them, that they thought they were useless. They imagined stepping into the boss’s shoes, and they suddenly found that the person whom they were working with, when they imagined being them, they suddenly felt their job was being threatened. So, it was actually this other person, who was in the experience of feeling that they’re being threatened by this new kind of person who came in, and had all of these great ideas. It changed the perspective of someone who was just a bully, to someone who was actually feeling quite vulnerable, it completely transformed the communication. So, that’s sort of the second position is when you kind of imagine being the other person.

“Third position” in NLP, we talk about the external viewpoint. That is where you can stand back and imagine seeing both people in the communication, and noting the patterns of interaction between them. One of the most powerful things in NLP is that, when you can flip between these different positions, you have an incredible perspective at being able to see how communication operates at very deep levels.

Related Podcast and Transcription: A Primer on NLP

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