Posts Tagged ‘model’

Theory or Model?

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

During an event I was running last week I was asked what the difference is between a Model and a Theory. The short answer is that a Model ‘represents’ and a Theory ‘explains’.

A Theory usually starts with a number of assumptions, which are then tested. The assumptions generally relate to a logical chain of objective reasoning. The testing leads to conclusions and possible further testing. And a Theory is born. The theme for the testing of any effective Theory is that of validity.

A Model, in the learning and development  environment, is generally accepted to be a symbolic or graphic representation of a theory, system or intricate process. It will often show the inter-relationship between the differing aspects of the theory.  It is intended to explain and as such is often a simplification and does not contain all the detail. The theme for the testing of and effective Model is that of utility.

Incidentally, this reminds me of a quote I once read somewhere – and successfully remembered for some reason. It was explaining what a Model was and it stated, “A Model is a theoretical reflection, an approximation of reality, but like a map it helps us see the ground a little more clearly”. I do wish I could forget some of these things I have learned in the past and remember things that are of more use.

Anyway, a week before being asked the Model and Theory question – during a management development programme – I was asked what was the best Theory that I knew. I found (and find) this a very difficult question to answer. It’s a little like asking me what my favourite piece of music is – it will depend on the situation and circumstances. Having said that, whilst it will depend on the setting, I would probably have to go for Transactional Analysis (TA). I would choose TA for a number of reasons:

  • It is perhaps the most versatile Theory I know in that it is applicable to so many situations.
  • It is fundamental to so many situations as it improves communications and assists in building rapport.
  • It is relatively easy to understand.
  • I have witnessed more personal and professional development by individuals and teams through the application of this Theory than any other.

This Theory was developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1960s and has since been popularised in books such as his own, “Games People Play” and Harris’ “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”.

Berne developed the theory that at various times individuals behave in different ways which are identifiable through different types of behaviour. These different types of behaviour he called “ego-states” and he labelled named them as “Parent”, “Adult” and “Child”. 

According to Berne (and no one has really threatened this theory in the intervening years) people are always operating in one of these three ego-states.

The ego-states are so named because they reflect behaviour typically exhibited by parents, adults and children. It should be understood from the outset, however, that the states have nothing to do with actual ages. For example, a 5 year old person can be in the Adult or Parent ego-state, and a childless person can be in the parent ego-state.

Earlier this year, having delivered a session on TA on a Leadership Programme, I found that one of the delegates had found the input so impactive, he had resigned from his job and returned to his native France to find an ex-girlfriend as it had enabled him to understand why the relationship had initially failed. I say initially failed as they are now back together again.

Whilst this level of impact is an extreme example, it is testament to the powerful understanding this theory can deliver when applied to personal or professional situations.

In my next blog, I will explain more about TA.


Two of the best trainer models?

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

I am running a Train the Trainer Programme in a week’s time and am very excited about it. It is a while since I have done one, and for me, in working life terms, life doesn’t get much better than training trainers. Hence the excitement!

Part of my planning has been updating or preparing new handouts for certain models and topics, and this has reminded me of some of the excellent models and theories available to assist trainers in their work and own personal development.

I have just completed handouts on two of John Heron’s models – 6 Category Intervention Analysis (6CIA) and Dimensions of Facilitator Style (DFS). As I completed them, I was left wondering whether these are perhaps the best models available for a trainer to use to assess whether they are a ‘complete’ trainer?

Heron first developed the 6CIA model. It was designed to assist people involved in 1-2-1 helping relationships, such as a doctor working with a patient. As the name suggests, it categorises the helper’s Interventions into 6 Categories (Prescriptive, Informative, Confronting, Cathartic, Catalytic and Supportive). By using this model, trainers can ascertain whether they are using all the Categories, and whether they are using the most appropriate Category at the most appropriate time. I have seen it help a person understand a potential ‘blind spot’ they have by it illustrating to them how they were only using 5 of the Categories.

DFS also has 6 groupings, but here they are referred to as Dimensions (as opposed to Categories). These dimensions are Planning, Meaning, Confronting, Feeling, Structuring and Valuing. Heron developed this model to assist facilitators working with Groups (as opposed to 1-2-1s), and these Dimensions cover all aspects of how a facilitator and a group works together.

This model is sometimes also referred to as 18DFS. This is because not only does it have the six Dimensions, it also has three Modes – Hierarchical, Co-operative and Autonomous. Heron used the Modes to describe the exercise of power in the running of the group by the facilitator – moving from Hierarchical, where all the power is with the trainer, through to Autonomous where the group has the freedom to finds its own way. As each Mode can be combined with each Dimension, this gives eighteen possible combinations.

I find that one of the best ways of explaining this model is to imagine, as a trainer, you have a ‘mixer’, as a producer would use when recording music. On the producer’s mixer they have 6 controls managing the loudness or softness of each instrument making up the track, which they can change as they see fit – thus enabling them to create the perfect sound. As a trainer, change the instruments to Dimensions, and the loudness / softness control to the Modes. You then use your mixer to set the Dimensions and Modes at their appropriate level for the needs of the group, amending them as you see fit.

If you want more details of these models, you’ll find them on the ‘Discussions’ area of the Breathe Facebook Page. If you would like Microsoft Word versions (which contain additional information that I cannot reproduce on Facebook), please drop me an email and I’ll happily send them to you.

Are these the two best trainer models, or would you suggest any better ones? I’d be very interested to hear your views.


Your national embarrassment?

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

We are in the Netherlands at the moment – at a Center Parcs near Amsterdam. We went for a day out to Amsterdam on Sunday – what a lovely city with a really friendly feel to it. There was some sort of major regatta taking place and so the canals were heaving. The boats with parties on board gave the place a bit of a carnival feel.

We used the ‘canal buses’ to get around and whilst waiting at one stop an Italian and I started a conversation. He was in Amsterdam for a short break with his mother. He was probably in his late 40s, had lived in Brussels for the last 18 years, goes back to Italy twice a year and regularly has meetings in London, Paris and elsewhere.

Due to the travelling he undertook and the amount of time he has spent away from Italy, I was interested as to whether he still viewed himself as an Italian. He told me that he didn’t see himself as an Italian, more a European citizen. He also explained that as time went on he found he had more and more issues “with Italians”. We didn’t have any more time to explore this as our canal boat was pulling into the dock. He did however have a need to conclude the conversation with one last comment. He said, “Can I, on behalf of Italy, please apologise for Berlusconi. He is a national embarrassment”.  His apology appeared to be serious as it was said with both apparent embarrassment and feeling. I replied that I could understand where he was coming from; we got on the boat and went our separate ways.

This left me pondering these two questions:

1)      If I was to apologise to someone from another country for my ‘national embarrassment’, who would it be?

2)      As a trainer, which model or theory have I learned or shared with others, which, with hindsight, I should apologise for having shared – due to it not really being a very good model or theory.

So, who would be your ‘national embarrassment’, and which is the worst model or theory that you have learned or used?

I’d be very interested in your thoughts!


Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations from my schooldays

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

I went to a very enjoyable Reunion on Friday night for people who went to Northgate Grammar School, Ipswich and who celebrated their fiftieth birthdays this School year. I left the School in the long hot summer of 1976 having taken my ‘O’ levels, due to my parents moving north, and completed the remainder of my education in Yorkshire.

That was 34 years ago. And I had not had any contact with any of my ex-classmates since 1976, other than communication with 3 or 4 people via Friends Reunited and a few emails during the organisation of the event. 

It felt very strange prior to the event. I could remember so little about my time there or the people I was with, I felt like I was researching another person’s history rather than retracing my own steps. I didn’t recognise anyone at the event, although I did recognise names. The only person I was sure I knew – and was very enthusiastic in explaining to him how I remembered him – I didn’t actually know. I had got the wrong person!

It all fitted with aspects of some training I had been delivering within the NHS on the previous day. We were discussing motivating staff and dealing with people who may appear difficult. Specifically we were looking at the NLP work of Shelle Rose Charvet, and my experiences at the Reunion fitted very well with a foundation stone of NLP and Shelle Rose Charvet’s work – how we use our own personal filters to create our own reality of the world, unlike anyone else’s reality, through the Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation of information.

We delete things as we can only remember a certain number of pieces of information at any one time – best estimates suggest that it is around 7 pieces if information from an interaction or discussion.

We distort things – possibly why we have a Lock Ness Monster and large black panthers roaming the country. Closer to home, it explains how we suddenly see something possibly scary, and then realise it’s not quite what we thought it was.

And we generalise. People create a view of groups of people, or a personal norm (such as all car sales people are this, or all politicians are that), based on a few interactions or what they have heard from others.

And the whole of the Reunion evening – certainly for me – was based on Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations. When I left the Reunion, I think my one regret was that I didn’t have any notes or recollections that might have given me a fighting chance of having a personal reality reasonably close to someone else’s personal reality.

It emphasised to me the benefits of Reflective Practice and diary keeping. We forget far more than we ever learn, and in order to increase our potential to learn we can spend more time recording what we have achieved and how we have achieved it, and what we have not done well and why it didn’t go well.


To the Affective and beyond …

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Buzz, Woody and co are back! Toy Story 3 has arrived and is at a cinema near you. Reports say that it is a quite brilliant film, with the ability to appeal to both young and old. I’m getting excited just writing about it (and on a personal note, I’m surprised it has taken me until my fifteenth blog post to mention anything Disney)!  

Whilst it appears that Toy Story 3 will appeal to all ages, I get the impression that it’s one of those films where the adults will get more emotional than the children, and the children probably will not understand why the parents are getting all tearful – so some explanation or meaning may be required.

As many trainers know, this could be a great example of some affective learning. I’m also aware that many trainers know very little about the affective domain, and even when they do they are reluctant to use it. This is often due to the perception of such scenarios being complicated to de-brief, or that they may lose control of what takes place and not be able to gain the learning.

The majority of trainers will have a good understanding of Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy (or ‘ordered list’) of Cognitive learning which describes the 6 levels we, as trainers, can seek to attain with our learning methodologies. Many of us also use the Psychomotor domain of learning – the domain through which people learn how to use, for example, tools. So, when we learn to drive we learn through the Cognitive domain (what signs mean, when to indicate) and the Psychomotor domain (how to change gear, how to steer the vehicle along a correct course).

I can also recall a few affective experiences during my time driving. The one that immediately springs to mind involves a level crossing near Barnsdale Bar, but the less said about that the better – suffice to say it didn’t involve any trains or vehicles other than mine.  The Affective domain relates to feelings, and Affective learning is when we learn from those feelings.  Due to feelings having been involved, it can make the learning far longer lasting and far more potent than would otherwise be the case. Consequently, due to how much I scared myself at that level crossing, and the fact I understand what I did wrong, I haven’t made the same error again.

The use of the Affective domain can be a really powerful tool in situations such as role plays, when using an evocative piece of music or when asking people to imagine themselves in a certain scenario. I will explain in another post how to run these as effectively as possible.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that a person doesn’t actually learn whist experiencing the feelings – they learn from being de-briefed. They learn in the cognitive domain from understanding their feelings – and in learning situations people will often not fully appreciate why they have experienced certain feelings.  And the rest of the group – who may not have experienced any feelings – will learn vicariously from the effective de-briefing of the situation.

The reviewer of Toy Story 3 at commented, “You might bring a handkerchief along. Or some tissue. Whatever you have. A long-sleeved shirt will do. You’re going to need it. My viewing companion openly sobbed during the entire final five minutes”.

If you go and see Toy Story 3, I’m pretty sure that you will understand where any feelings come from – but those around you may not, particularly if they are young. You will be able to increase their understanding of the world with a helpful explanation of what happened for you – once you’ve stopped sobbing!


Do we need models for coaching?

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I am amazed at how many coaching models appear to have been created over the last few years. Almost every time I run a session on coaching, someone in the group tells me of another model I then encounter for the first time. Are they all required? Are any of them required? Perhaps I ask the question as I come from a standpoint that I don’t see any of them as particularly useful.

Well, there’s one I like – and I first heard about it last year. It is the “WAIT” model. And it stands for “Why Am I Talking?”. Which perhaps isn’t a model but more of a principle – which could explain why I like it. I much prefer the idea of operating from a set of principles.

The best bit of coaching I ever received was about 13 or 14 years ago near a lock on a waterway somewhere in Cambridgeshire. I had stopped off on the way to or from somewhere to have a meal with my very dear friend Sara. Sara and I are different in many ways – perhaps the most striking being my liking to consider and plan, and Sara being a person who does almost everything on the spur of the moment. We were having a walk (with a bit of skipping and the odd cartwheel thrown in for good measure) near this river or canal, having a laugh and being silly. As we approached the lock, Sara said, “Come on, let’s walk across the lock”, and off she went stepping on to this thin lock gate. “But I might fall in”, I retorted. “And?” she shouted back, almost at the other side.

That “And?” has replayed many times in my mind since then and in many different situations. It didn’t need a model to make it great, but it did need a relationship.

Sara also introduced me to a book called “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran. As he is apparently the third most read poet in history, and this particular work is his most famous, you may have read it. “The Prophet” is said to be his metaphor for life.

I think it offers some very inspirational thoughts that can work very well as principles for coaching and training. The following are some extracts that help me to ensure that I am as effective as possible as a coach or trainer.

    The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
    If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.

    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts. 

    You give but little when you give of your possessions.
    It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. 

    Work is love made visible.
    And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should
 leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
    For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
    And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
    And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
    And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.
    For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words many indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.
What do you think?

Tomorrow I will offer some other quotes from the book which will relate to principles that coachees or learners could adopt and quotes that could apply to the coach and coachee relationship.