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Analyzing Language and Behavior in Top Performers

Analyzing Language and Behavior in Top Performers

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Analyzing language and behavior in Top Performersand its uses in the employment area
Patrick E. Merlevede, M.Sc This paper has been written for the International Colloquium on New Technologiesbased Learning and Employment Support, held in Belgium from 17 to 19 September1997. This colloquium was a joint project from theLaboratory for Applied Epistemologyof the University of Gent and the Laboratory for Cognitive Sciencesfrom the University of Mons - Hainaut.
Introduction
From someone's language in an interview, we can successfully predict how he or shewill behave in a given situation. The main idea is to analyze the top performers in thecompany for the structure behind their excellence and to use this structure for theemployment of other persons that have a similar job profile. Several series of testshave been developed in recent years for this purpose. This paper discusses the teststhat are based on the Motivation Traits and Working Traits, coming from the field of Neuro-Linguistics. It will show how to use these tests to recruit people, to coach themand to train them, based on the knowledge from the company itself.
The theory behind the model
Neuro-Linguistic modeling is derived from the fields of Cognitive Science. It wasstarted in the early 70's at the Santa Cruz Campus of the University of California,where scientists of the different fields worked side by side. Among other things, itapplies research methodology from cognitive psychology and techniques fromknowledge acquisition for building models.In fact, a "problem" of AI & Cognitive Science is that they try to make abstraction of physics or biology, by mapping human thinking on machines. For buildingapplications, we can use the results of research without this "abstraction", since weintend to apply to humans anyway! However, following the example of AI andCognitive Science, we stress on the structure of the cognitive processes.
Neuro-Linguistic Modeling
Definition: Neuro-Linguistic Modeling consists in using tools that have their origins inAI and Cognitive Science research with the goal of making a model of excellentbehavior, for transfer to other persons.Its technology basis comes from combining linguistics, AI & Neurology, more specific:
the theories of transactional grammar as developped by Chomsky and asrepresented in Santa Cruz by people such as professor John Grinder;
the area of systems thinking, as started by Korzybski and extended byBateson, known from the School of Palo Alto, but residing at Santa Cruz in the70s;
the field of cognitive science with persons as Miller, whose models have beenput into practice for Neuro-Linguistic Modeling.
Based on structure, not content
When companies hire people, manage them or train them, they mostly focus on thecontent. This content will be typically different from person to person, whichcomplicates the situation. For instance, examples given in a training often do notapply to the particular situation the participant finds himself in, and it is difficult tofind out how to convert the principle behind the example so that it can be applies. Instead, Neuro-Linguistics focuses on the structure that is the same. In the training, wewill stress on the principles, and explore how to apply them with the participants.Below, we explain which structure elements are taken into account.For analyzing language and for bringing the person closer to the actual experience,we use 3 types of questions, based on 15 language patterns discovered by Chomsky(1965) and Grinder (1973). The first type of questions helps us to questionunspecified nouns, the second type serves for finding out what is behind unspecifiedverbs and a third range of questions explores the limit of the world-view of theperson for a specific context (modal operators). The language-patterns used by
 
persons on itself is a structure as well, and will sometimes be considered as being apart of the model.For analyzing behavior we combine a set of models, such as the13 meta-programs(with sub-classes as Motivational and Working Traits), 6 eye-movements, 6 logicallevels and the 4 perceptual positions. Explaining these models goes beyond thescope of this paper, and I'd like to refer the reader to the book of Joseph O' Connor:"Introducing NLP" for more details. The expertise is analyzed using all the dimensionsthese models offer, both for an expert and for a less experienced person. Bycomparison, we find the meaningful differences between an expert(s) and the otherperson(s). The resulting significant parameters that are withheld are grouped according to theprinciples of the TOTE and SCORE models. These are 2 models for planning andproblem solving. The TOTE model is based upon the feedback loop as worked out in1960 by Miller, Galanter & Pribram in their book "Plans and the Structure of Behavior".Sometimes content is taken into account. In that case, it is considered like filling outthe structure-model. The quality of a model is evaluated by the predictability of the results (will someoneapplying the model get the same results as the expert, within the scope of themodel?) and by the simplicity of the model (can the model be explained in less tan 7steps, does it only include the elements that make a difference, or does it involvecomplex steps?).Given the number of parameters to be considered, the complexity of modeling isquite high. Ways to handle the complexity is by making video-tapes of the interviewsand the demonstrations given by the expert and the other subjects. Training amodeler requires at least the equivalent of 300 course-hours of theory and practice.In the rest of this document we will show some possible applications of modeling inthe employment area, explain a typical project approach and give an example forprogramming. For the example we will only expand on some of the Motivational andWorking Traits
Possible Applications for Employment Support
 The basic instrument for deciding which patterns are withheld, is a contrast analysisbetween the successful persons and the less successful ones. This contrast analysisis based on the SCORE-model for problem solving, where we differentiate betweensymptoms, causes, outcomes and effects. The resources, used to get from theproblem space to the solution space, show the patterns we are after. For this, we usethe TOTE model to further analyze the person's actions. The quality of a modelincreases with the number of excellent examples taken into consideration, wherepractice has shown that 3 well-chosen examples are enough to get a good model of one person.
Recruitment: Personnel Selection
 The principle of that we want to find similar patterns in the persons we want torecruit as the patterns the model(s) show us. The critical patterns are the patternsshown by all the experts and not present in the counter-examples. If critical patternsare not present in a candidate, this is a serious counter-indication to hiring him forthis specific function, unless we have indications that it will take an acceptableamount of training and coaching for the person to use the desired patterns.
Training: Transfer of excellence
While training, we want to install similar patterns in the students as the patternsshown by the model. The contrast analysis teaches us which patterns have to beincluded in the training material. Often, the person already uses the patterns wewant to install, only in other contexts than the work context we want him to use thepatterns in. If this is the case, often exercises in which the patterns are used as ademonstration will be sufficient to switch on the patterns. Sometimes, some beliefs of the person will show up and help us find what stops him from using the patterns. If 
 
beliefs form a blockade, the severity of the blockade will help predict the chancesthis person has to become successful in the context.
Coaching/Managing:
Here we want to adapt the person so that he shows more of the effective patterns, inwhich we focus on his weak spots, compared to model. In the coaching process, weuse the person’s language and behavior structure as a "manual" on how to adapt themanager so that he will get the best results with this particular employee. If thecoaching requires getting through some serious blockades, the line betweencoaching and therapy becomes a very thin one. In these cases, because of theboundary between professional and personal life, we would suggest the person tofind therapeutic help or find a job better adapted to the patterns he is comfortablewith.Also, while managing a person, we check if the performance parameters, as well asthe other criteria used to evaluate the person are compatible with the patterns wewant to see in the person's behavior. For instance, if I am managing an airline, and Iwant a co-pilot to correct the mistakes a pilot makes, I'd better know that the typicalline of command makes it difficult or the co-pilot to give "negative feedback" to thepilot, unless I add a specific evaluation instrument that judges the co-pilot on thedetection of a number of "deliberate" errors the pilot was instructed to make.Some companies will give the function of coach to another person than the manager. This often makes it easier to get through some barrier during the coaching process. Ido advise that this kind of coaching is done with the same kind of ethical code oneexpects from a therapist.
Typical Approach
A typical project starts by identifying the context where the excellence is needed,together with the criteria used to decide upon the excellence of the behavior. Thecriteria of excellence play the role of an objective measurement instrument. Thismeans that we often have to improve the criteria if objectivity is not sufficientlyguaranteed.Based on this information, we proceed by selecting one or several experts as well asa group of counter-examples. Once this is done, we can start the actual modeling of the excellent language and behavior patterns. Modeling gives the best results if wecan observe the experts while they are active in the context to be modeled. We oftenobserve a difference between the patterns of a person talking about a context andthe same person in the context. When life observation is impractical or tooexpensive, we simulate the context or we try to get information that is quite accurateinvolving Ericksonian techniques. To increase the accuracy of the modeling, we wantto get 3 successful cases and 3 unsuccessful cases from each subject participating inthe modeling.
Use the results
We can use the results of a modeling project in several area's of the humanresources field, such as recruitment, training and management, but its effect will bethe best if we combine the applications in several area's. In this section, we describehow to apply the results of the modeling in 3 typical area's:
Work out profile & Use profile for selection
From the model of excellence, we know which structural parameters and patterns areimportant for getting results in the context. In stead of focussing on the experience of the person, we use these parameters and patterns as the "job-profile". Also, we canderive specific profiling tools. Especially if the number of candidates or the number of positions to fill is large, we can derive a specific questionnaire that will test for theprofile. The persons in charge of the selection are trained to use the profile and theprofiling tools.
Work out training material to pass on the knowledge of the model
Again we start from the model of excellence and the contrast analysis. The trainingdesign focuses on bridging the differences between the current behavior and the

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