Peak Performance Strategies

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Introduction to Modeling

By Armand Kruger.

Overview of Approach

The fundamental presupposition of Modeling is: Experience has structure.

Our experiences are comprised of various elements: behavior, emotions, patterns of thinking, and the beliefs or assumptions on which those patterns are based. Differences in experiences are a direct result of differences in how these elements are structured. That is, your behaviors, what you are feeling, what you are thinking, what you are believing, and how all of these elements interact with one another, combine to give rise to your experience at a moment in time. That array of content and relationships constitutes the structure of the experience.

It is within these structures that we find the differences that distinguish someone who is adept at an ability from someone who is not. In modeling, we are "mapping" out the underlying structure of experience that makes it possible for an exemplar to manifest his/her particular ability. If we - or anyone - structure our experience to match that of the exemplar, that structure will enable us to manifest (to a great extent) that same ability.

Rationale of this Approach

When reading the autobiographies of extraordinary people this author is struck by the fact that they never(?) supply competence-lists from which to map their extraordinariness. Why? Because they don't know, and their brains does not "do" competency lists when it executes a neurological function called an ability/competence.

Attributes of Internal Experience

To facilitate the understanding of this viewpoint, here follows some attributes of the structure of internal experience, which can be tested by referring to the readers own internal experience as the reading is being done:

i).William James, psychologist at the turn of the century, “invented, or at least introduced and popularised, the term “stream of consciousness”. Within each personal consciousness, we experience thinking as “sensibly continuous”. Consciousness does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. It flows.” Thoughts thus has the characteristic of flowing or moving towards realising an outcome. When thinking about something, and paying attention to your thoughts, one will notice how the “mind” pays attention to content in different ways, giving the impression as if one’s thoughts are “going somewhere”. For those who are learning to meditate, and even experienced mediators, this is the most difficult part, namely keeping thoughts “still”. It is difficult because this is one of the neurological properties of experience. (Good attention is thus a statement of the “width” of the stream, not about whether the stream is moving or not. Poor attention would refer to the person having difficulty controlling the “thematic width” of the stream and “overflowing unintentionally” or that the width of the thematic stream is out of voluntary control).

ii). The building blocks of internal awareness (called modalities) are pictures, sounds and feelings, and to a lesser extend smell and taste. It is impossible to think or become aware of the content of one’s thoughts in any other way! This can be called the “language of the brain”. Even though one would be inclined to judge these as “sensory data”, examining one’s own experience would soon indicate that the content of the pictures, sounds and feelings, is information that is processed or psychologically filtered. One’s experience is as unique as one’s fingerprints, because of the content of one’s filters, and because of the resulting perceptual bias. What you experience about the world, is a very personal statement of who you are. Psychologists are very familiar with the fact that we work with “the map, not the territory”.

iii). The sense of internal flow, or the “stream of consciousness” is the result of the mind/person making ongoing distinctions and comparisons through the modalities. As the persons pay attention to the picture representation of the content (distinction one), and then “moves” to the auditory or feeling modality (the next distinctions), the mind “moves” through both the what and the how of the internal representation of the experience. Experience consists therefore of continuous what and how distinctions in the current experience. To pre-empt the part on expertise: the speed, range and nature of the distinctions and comparisons experts make, is how they are different from learners or not-successful examples of what they do.

iv). In particular contexts, people have a preference to think mostly in one or other modality, even though all the modalities are present in the experience. To emphasise, all the modalities are present, but the preferred modality is how the person pays attention to mostly in a particular context. These preferred modalities can change the minute a person shifts their attention or begin a new enquiry about the experience; even a question would be sufficient to change a person’s preferred modality at any one time. It must be emphasised that these preferred modalities are relevant to the context and what the person is paying attention to. Correctly, they can only be called relative preferences, and they are not a typology!

v). Experiential maps or internal representations of the world is context specific, and refers to the pictures, sounds and feelings (the modalities) of a specific time and place, i.e. context.

vi). A strategy (or the neurological software) will refer to the internal sequence of modality events, that produces an outcome. The “stream of consciousness” of one’s experience is the mind “scanning” through the modalities as it makes different distinctions about the content of a “map”. Both the interchange and the direction of the distinctions and comparisons are outcome directed; thoughts flow towards an end state or an outcome, they are never random.

Competence defined

A competence can be defined as a particular internal sequence of modality events that characteristically produce a predictable behaviour or outcome. To put this in another way: competence is the referral to a process in which certain distinctions and comparisons in the modalities of experience leads to designated outcomes. In other words, the modalities and the sequence of the modalities, is how the competence is experienced or “done” in the person’s head. Confidence, or problem solving, or whatever other competence, are particular sets of distinctions and comparisons people make in their experience, in the particular context, to get to a designated outcome.

Examples are: good spellers do it with pictures, and would only use an auditory strategy if the preferred visual one does not bring up the word. Typical meta-processes are done in auditory mode, specifically internal dialogue, that runs as ongoing commentary while the person does the thinking strategy. While people make presentations to a group it is possible for them to “watch” themselves and make corrections to how they do things. Some people only “know” their mind when they have a clear feeling about an issue, and they cannot, or would refuse to make a decision before they know how they feel

Attributes of an expert

Experts do things very, very rapidly and at an unconscious level.

At an expert level one is referring to examples of people functioning at the unconscious competence level of the learning curve. It is interesting that conscious processes in the mind requires a much slower tempo of neurological functioning. In order for one to become aware of what and how you think, it seems it is a prerequisite that you slow down the mental speed to correspond with the tempo of verbalisation/language and/or a tempo at which you can recognise pictures. When you speak with a expert about their competence, the answer you more frequently get is that they don't know, or that it just happens, etc. This is the experiential indication that whatever it is that they do at the unconscious competence level, is outside of their awareness because of the speed at which they run the neurological software. Beginners, on the other hand, do things only as fast as they can say it on the inside or as fast as they can recall their internal pictorial representation of the steps of the competence. Repetition, or experience, of the internal sequence of events is what allows for the person to "speed up" until they equal the expert and they become unconsciously competent.

"Experience" allows the expert to think in non-linear formats.

Experts do not necessarily think sequentially, but more like "jumping steps". The can take calculated short cuts, or think in unusual/innovative/creative ways about the problem, which is very different from the linear thinking of the novice. They can do this because of the different forms of thinking that they can utilise, for example like changing conceptual levels in their thinking from abstract to concrete (or vice versa), and/or changing conceptual positions (eg. dreamer to self-critic; problem analysis to problem solving while considering the restrictions to potential solutions).

Expert flexibility is an demonstration of how the expert considers the outcome and the context of the event in their decision of what is the "correct way" of applying the competence.

This consideration of the outcome and context is what gives the same competence it's "variability" or differences in appearance: the same competence will have a different form or even sequence under different circumstances, because the requirements are different. Test this in your own experience by comparing different examples of using the same competence in different contexts, and notice how the form/process would change to accommodate the circumstances/context and the identified outcome. A good general example would be teaching people decision-making strategies. The contexts which apply will determine the kind or form of the decision-making which will be appropriate. Think about how you might go about a decision in a situation which is not dependant on how much time a person has for making the best decision, or how much information is explicitly available. Compare this with a time when you are pressured for time, and a working decision is required immediately, even though not all the information is available. “A particular skill or capability (such as the ability to “think creatively”) may serve as a support for many different kinds of tasks, situations and contexts”, says Robert Dilts . Using only behavioural methods to identify the presence of a competence could therefore never identify the contextual demands on the variability of the capability, or the context specific form of the competence.

Experts recognise the internal and external cues when to start and stop the process. This is easily underestimated as can be seen with the concern about training transfer and the predictive validity of measurements.

A person might have the neurological software in place (as was seen during an assessment centre or from psychometric testing) but that still does not mean the person will recognise the cues when to use the strategy. Frequently people, when they have been not successful, will in retrospect identify, and even demonstrate, what they should have done. At the time, they will tell you, they do not think of it "in that way". Therefore, the appropriate identification of the cues when to use what version of the strategy, is what correlates with success.

It is clear that as experts run the "expert neurological software" they do so at more than one level.

As they run the strategy there is at the same time an ongoing evaluation about whether they will be achieving their outcome if they continue to think along the current lines, i.e. run the current software. This meta-position is an ongoing process that assesses not only whether the outcome will be achieved but whether it will meet the criteria for the outcome. This is the seat or source of work-ethics and the dynamism of the achievement drive, defined by David McClelland as, "the need or drive for wanting to do better".

The resultant, external behaviour is a poor reflector of the internal sequence of thoughts.

The most one can say after the behavioural assessment of an competence is that some kind of thinking is present in some form, but whether it is available under the contextual parameters of real life, and whether the essential meta-step for self-assessment and personal learning is present, would be uncertain and would only be identified accurately to the extend that the assessment procedure approximates the real working conditions. (This should be a serious consideration for when to use psychometric evaluation, if at all, because they are notoriously insensitive to contexts even though their interpretation and predictive value is supposed to cut across contexts).

An experiential model

A model that is useful to understand these sets of distinctions that experts make, is called the T.O.T.E.-model. T.O.T.E. 's. supply a mental or experiential map of the structure of an ability. “The essential modeling framework employed by NLP is that of the goal orientated feedback loop described by the T.O.T.E. (Miller, Gallanter and Pribram, 1960). The letters T.O.T.E. stand for Test-Operate-Test-Exit. The T.O.T.E. concept maintains that all mental and behavioural programs revolve around having a fixed goal and a variable means to achieve that goal.” (Dilts, 1998)

"... a TOTE. is essentially a sequence of activities in our sensory representational systems that has become consolidated into a functional unit of behavior such that it is typically executed below the threshold of consciousness."

The TOTE-model consists of the following four components:

Test 1:

This is an internal trigger which in a sense activates the appropriate operation, or strategy, or internal sequence of events. This is the step that is the start of the sequence and it is here that the cues to do something is recognised or not. Having determined through this step “it” has to start, it also determines what form of competence is required to get to the outcome. This step is typically a set of distinctions and comparisons with an internal set of criteria or frame of reference. When the person experiences a discrepancy, it becomes the indication that it is time for a particular mental operation, because the event is not or will not, meet the criteria relevant in the context. If the distinction is that the criteria is being met, the person would exit, i.e. stop thinking about it or move into an behaviour.


This refers to the internal strategy or sequence of events, and is the thinking process the person follows to satisfy the discrepancy identified in Test 1. The nature of this sequence is determined by the persons criteria and their definition of the discrepancy. Different criteria and different definitions of the discrepancy will therefore call for a different operations (competency "fruit salads") to address and fix the gap.

Test 2:

Is a way of testing whether the operation is now satisfying the internal or external conditions for completion or achieving the outcome. These conditions would be a comparison with a set of values, a comparison with the requirements of a job, or any other set of conditions that has to be completed in terms of the person's own recognition that the process is complete. If this test 2 does not give a person an internal or external signal of the process been completed, the person will either repeat the process, or exit to a completely different operation until the internal or external conditions for completion have been met, or recycle indefinitely until there comes an external reason to stop.


When the internal conditions have been met, the person EXITS either in the form of a behaviour which gets him to exit into a "doing mode", or he starts a new operation which might be a better way to meet the requirements of test 1.

“This model indicates that, as we think, we set goals in out mind (consciously or unconsciously) and develop a TEST for when that goal has been achieved. If that goal is not achieved we OPERATE to change something or do something to get closer to our goal. When our TEST criteria have been satisfied we then EXIT on to the next step. So the function of any particular part of a behavioural program could be to (T)est information from the senses in order to check progress towards the goal or to (O)perate to change some part of the ongoing experience so that it can satisfy the (T)est and (E)xit on to the next part of the program” .

The TOTE below demonstrate a typical operation if a person changes his external behaviour. The external behaviour is compared with a particular set of internal criteria: maybe whether the behaviour is effective, whether the behaviour is appropriate, or whether the behaviour is true to the person's identity. The person will mentally work out the alternative behaviour options, until he satisfies the criteria, from which he then demonstrates the new or changed behaviour. A diagram might summarise this concept as follows:



A description of what the person needs to see, hear, touch, sense and/or taste to know that the criterion is met.



The sequence of internal representations and external behaviors most commonly used to satisfy the criterion.


Sequences of internal representations and external behaviors when the Primary Operation is ineffective.



In order to demonstrate the thinking implied by this approach, below is a basic method for identifying peoples' experiential maps, using a contrastive analysis :

a) Identify a real life example of a specific competence or competence cluster that was a critical contributor to achieving a particular outcome. Also identify an example when the use of the identified competence was less than successful.

b) Starting with the successful example answer the following four questions about the competence:

i) what was your intended outcome in that specific situation? What was your definition of success for that particular context?

ii) what was your sensory evidence that you used to track your progress towards achieving your outcome? How did you know you were on your way to being successful?

iii) what were the steps that you took to get to your outcome?

iv) when you experienced an obstacle, what did you do then?

c) Repeat the same four steps for your less than successful example and enjoy the discovery that you are successful (and fail) by design as you become aware of the difference in the process between the two uses of the same competence. Identifying where the two processes differ is what allows you to learn from and repeat your success deliberately.


The brain does not do competence lists when a person executes expert behaviour. Competencies are experienced and appear as internal sequences of experiential events in the mind. External behaviour are very crude indicators of the presence and form of the competencies required for success. Using the thinking of the T.O.T.E.-model would alert the human scientist to some of the hidden variables that needs to be considered in drawing up expert profiles and the methodology used for assessing the same. The author has found that the closer the approximation to the real life working conditions, the more accurate the assessment and the higher the predictive value of the meanings of the assessors.


Modeling, then, is the process of creating useful "maps" (descriptions of the structure of experience) of human abilities. In mapping human abilities, useful distinctions are about patterns of thinking (“Strategies”), feelings, doing (“External Behavior”), and believing (“Criterial equivalences” and “Cause - Effects”). Most human abilities involve the simultaneous expression and interaction of these “elements of experience”, even though in certain contexts certain of these elements would be more important or more prominent given the outcome.

Below is a graphic representation of the components that “make up” an ability:

Given the complexity of the information elicited from the success examples, this is the approach that has been used because it describes best the key and important components without belabouring jargon and technicalities. The model above used by David Gordon, is also useful in that it illustrates how the variables in the structure of the competency interact and function as a cluster or “system”. A competency as a process could never be one thing, but is the end result of a neurological sequence of events, as would be described through the language of T.O.T.E.’s. The major part of this process is unconscious in the expert because of the incredible speed at which it happens. Learners do it relatively slowly and very deliberate, but experts do it virtually instantaneously.