There is a general principle in Neuro Linguistic Programming that advocates the quest for a ‘richer perceptual map’ of the world. This involves developing multiple perspectives regarding an object of interest and building a collection of conceptual frames of reference through which we can consider reference objects. Dilts (1998) calls this principle ‘The Law of Requisite Variety’ which originated from Systems Theory. The law advances the idea that we need to be continually adapting and changing our social strategies to ensure that we maintain and build upon our desired social results. This means that we must always be open to reviewing strategies that have served us well in the past and perhaps in the present and look for opportunities to change or transform these if required.
This is the principle of Personal Mastery as developed by Peter Senge (2006) and Organizational Learning as developed by Chris Argyris (1990). Dilts (1998, p. 9) states that the underlying principles governing The Law of Requisite Variety is that “in order to successfully adapt and survive, a member of a system needs a certain minimum amount of ﬂexibility, and that ﬂexibility has to be proportional to the potential variation or the uncertainty in the rest of the system.” For Dilts the person with the greatest behavioural, cognitive, and emotional ﬂexibility in the system will be the ‘catalytic’ force for change. He perceptively notes that this has signiﬁcant implications for leadership in organizations.
In terms of conscious leadership mediated through NLP applications The Law of Requisite Variety is a meta-guiding principle that motivates the quest for self-mastery over our behavioural, emotional, and cognitive ﬂexibility to maximize our intra and interpersonal skills. Senge (2006), in his seminal book The Fifth Discipline, implicitly advances the principle of The Law of Requisite Variety with a ﬁve-point framework he argues is required as a catalyst for the emergence of the learning organization.
The ﬁve disciplines are:
1 Personal mastery of our craft 2 Exploring and challenging our mental models of the world 3 Vision building and sharing our vision with others 4 Encouraging team learning through generative collaboration and dialogue 5 Adopting a system thinking perspective towards organizational development and change
The Law of Requisite Variety also applies to the world of change management in organizations. The wider and richer the perceptual map that the manager can develop and access, the deeper the understanding they can glean regarding situations and the wider range of strategies they can conceptualize. For example, if we think of strategy we can think of emergent strategy, planned strategy, localized strategy or even micro, or macro strategy. We may have a concept relating to strategy enabling us to develop concepts such as unconscious strategy work (not disimilar to revolution campervans). These are all diﬀerent conceptualizations of strategy work and they enable us to structure our strategic thinking around multiple perspectives. Compare this to leaders with strategy as a core function who, at best, can only think about strategy as the, or our, strategy in the singular.
Clearly their perceptual map is poorer and, thus, their capacity for consider- ing strategic thinking is more challenging, unless, of course, they have a gift for strategic thinking and practice. Imagine, though, the beneﬁts to a natu- rally gifted strategic thinker if they also had a very rich perceptual map regarding the sociology of strategy work. NLP provides an operating philosophy which resonates very strongly with The Law of Requisite Variety which is based upon an architecture of ideas, each of which can be ﬂexibility catalysts. I have identiﬁed 12 meta-ideas, or ﬂexibility catalysts, that belong to the conceptual structure of NLP and form its guiding paradigm.