If your brain was a computer, metaprogrammes would be the software running on the computer.
Just as a computer has to take in and analyse huge amounts of data to produce something we can make sense of, our brains have to do the same. Without the software, a computer would be unable to do this task, just as, without metaprogrammes, our brains would be unable to sort, analyse and form a perception from the huge amount of data available to us.
These metaprogrammes decide what information we are going to take notice of and what we are going to delete; they decide how we are going to distort the information and what generalisations we are going to apply to the information we are processing.
This is why several people can have the same experience and respond to it in totally different ways. Looking at an audience in a presentation, some people may be hanging on your every word, some people may be bored, some may just not have a clue what you’re talking about.
Understanding metaprogrammes can help you in all areas of life including managing change, sales and marketing, improving communication, self confidence and relationships.
Research carried out by Richard Bandler and John Grinder demonstrated that we have unconscious strategies for everything we do – making decisions, buying things, falling in love – everything.
These unconscious strategies consist of a series of internal sensory steps. For example, to make a decision we might look at the options, talk to someone about them and choose the one that feels right. (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic)
Someone else might get a feel for the various options, picture how they may work out then choose the one which makes sense. (Kinaesthetic, visual, digital)
But two people running the same strategy can get different results. For example, they might have the same strategy of visual – Kinaesthetic, but one person might say “I picture several options, and choose the one that feels right to me.” The other person, on the other hand, might say, “I picture several options, and then feel overwhelmed and confused by them.”
The concept of meta programmes came from trying to understand what made the difference for two such diverse responses.
How many meta programmes are there?
Different NLP developers and authors describe different sets of Meta Programs, sometimes with considerable overlap, sometimes with specific contextual purposes, and sometimes with great originality. L. Michael Hall describes 51 in his book, “Figuring Out People.” And others describe other sets.
For me, there are four key metaprogrammes which we can focus on in a business environment. They are:
Sameness and Difference
Towards and Away From
Big Picture and Detail
Internal and External
In this article I want to introduce Sameness and Difference (I will cover the others in later articles).
Sameness and Difference
Some people filter for sameness – they like familiarity and dislike change or anything outside their comfort zone. For example, they might like to go to the same place every year for their holiday, possibly even to the same hotel. They will be resistant to change and will like routine.
Other people filter for difference – they like change and get bored by routine and familiarity with places and activities. They may work hard to avoid going to the same place twice and may change their routine frequently.
But we are not completely polarised. Some people like to start from a position of sameness and move to difference “we always buy VW but we had a Golf last time so we’ll buy a Polo this time”
Some people like to start from a position of difference and move to sameness “we had a VW last time so we’ll buy an Audi this time – but it has to be an estate”
How can I use this?
It is very useful to think of sameness and difference in a number of key areas. In particular, communication in Sales and Marketing and Managing Change can really benefit from focusing on these filters.
In the 1980’s, the soft drinks market began to decline. This fact, along with increased competition from Pepsi, (do you remember the Pepsi challenge adverts?) prompted Coca-Cola to develop a new drink and replace the original coke with this new flavour.
The research and development team kept a new recipe under wraps from nearly everyone, even the bottlers. The team found that among test group after test group, “New” Coke was winning against the original in blind taste tests.
However, researchers failed to mention one thing to their test subjects: The New Coke that they thought tasted better would completely replace the original Coke
On April 23, 1985, New Coke was launched, but not without backlash from consumers. A group called the Old Cola Drinkers of America formed, and in July Coke had about 8,000 calls a day expressing their anger over the new formula. In addition, angry letters poured into Coca-Cola headquarters every day.
Questions were asked in Congress and picket lines formed outside factories.
On July 10, 1985, it was announced that Coca-Cola classic would be returning to store shelves.
This was a clear example of getting the message wrong. Coca Cola were filtering for difference, their customers filtered for sameness.
Most new products (including, now, new coke flavours) are sold on a sameness – difference basis: “New, improved Daz” (just like your old one, but better, “Coke zero – real coca cola taste and zero calories”
A new MD of a small business was presenting his vision to the assembled workforce. He presented with great enthusiasm the fantastic new world he could see before him. At the end he asked for questions and sat down smiling broadly. A member of staff held his hand up and asked “are we still going to get an hour for lunch?” The MD was furious, all this brilliant future and all he was interested in was his stomach!
The reality was, the employee was searching for some sameness he could hang on to in a maelstrom of difference.
And my personal favourite:
So when ‘selling’ change to your team, or your customers, ensure that you cover both sameness and difference in your communication. I would recommend that you use the sameness-difference approach “we’ll still be doing what we’ve always done, in a different market and making more money from it”
Next time. . .
Towards and Away From