The shortest distance between two points is a straight line – isn’t it?

wavy line illusionSome things are obvious.

It’s obvious that the lines on the right here are curved.  (they’re not – they are all straight and horizontal)

arrows illusion

It’s obvious that the horizontal green lines below are of different lengths.

(they’re not; they are all of precisely the same length.)

It’s obvious that when something is wrong it needs to be put right. That’s exactly what happened in the following three real life examples:

After a bomb was planted by the IRA in the Tower of London in 1974 action was taken to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. The solution was found. For the next 10 years visitors to the Tower were subjected to a search of their bags. I visited the Tower over 50 times in that period and the searching of bags was regular and thorough.

Nobodyeven if wearing a voluminous coat with pockets large as those of Fagin in Oliver Twist – nobody ever had their pockets searched.

When Lonhro took over The Observer newspaper in 1981, they suspected that money was being lost through some journalists exaggerating or cheating on their expenses (where have I heard that before?). The solution was found. Measures were taken to prevent this dishonesty. Journalists were requested to fill in expenses claims for every single item of expense, and unenthusiastically they complied.

What happened was that journalists who had previously been quite careless in claiming were forced to think about every item of expenditure. With such attention on the subject (and the lack of trust) even those who had been quite casual before began to register every expense and claims increased. Lonhro discovered that their costs, far from coming down, went up enormously.

After the costly Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 (where have I heard that before?!) a solution was found for the future. Many coastal states enacted laws to place unlimited liability on the tanker operators to ensure safer operation.

As a result, the huge Royal Dutch/Shell group began hiring independent ship companies to deliver oil to the United States. These tended to be fly-by-night tanker operators with leaky ships and iffy insurance, and thus the probability of spills increased and the likelihood of collecting damages decreased.

Beware of the obvious.  

Those of us that read our newspapers are given a daily training in black and white thinking: bad things need to be got rid of, people are good or bad; either it’s OK or it isn’t; the shortest distance between two points is always a straight line. All obvious.

Masters of the subtler martial arts tend not to use a straight block to an attack that’s the way people get hurt. Instead they employ circles that join the direction in which the opponent is already going and then continue in a circle until the direction is that which the master wants. When I met the elderly Maruyama Sensei, a famous master of the art, he sent a person flying across the room with the smallest of movements as his arm swept down in a circle. No effort, just gravity, the natural path of the circle and relaxation. Skill – that looks like pure magic. Watch 22 seconds here:

systems circleI first explored in NLP the fascinating concept that for activities that involve humans the circle is usually more useful than the straight line. Any single action may have one obvious effect – A causes B – but that action in fact creates effects in many directions at once. These effects in turn have their own impact – often less obvious – on many other factors. This was illustrated to me by Robert Dilts as in this diagram.

The French economic journalist Frederic Bastiat back in the early 1800s wrote:  “There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”

We need to explore the system. Success lies in recognising and taking note of all the connections including unintended consequences, payoffs and by-products.

NLP has many elegant processes for exploring systems and they allow for emotional and other human elements as well as logic. They are invaluable for designing strategies. They also work on the simplest interchanges:

  • I’m doing it this way, says A.Blocking diagram
  • No, (blocking) do it this way, instructs B (pushing straight back.)
  • Don’t want to, (resisting back) growls A, digging heels in.
  • I’m doing it this way, says A again.
  • That’s interesting, comments B. Show me how it goes (continuing round the circle).going with diagram
  • A shows, feeling listened to (going with the energy)
  • That’s great, says B. And if we veered then a bit this way with this result, how would that be? (They are already travelling in the same direction so it is easy for A to accept the steer.)
  • That’s interesting, says A. Let’s try it.

The concept of systems as explored in NLP is an important one for our present climate of drastic change – how many times is the baby thrown out with the bath water by straight line thinking?

I always find that people are excited and amazed by NLP training – first by how much they discover that is new to them; and secondly by the sheer range of applications in their work and home life. If you decide to put your toe in the water I’m sure you will discover the same.

NLP Diploma

My next NLP Diploma starts very soon – on 17-18 February – in Hammersmith, London.

You can apply for the full Diploma – three 2-day modules between Feb and April – and the special offer of £850 for the whole Diploma continues this spring.

Or you can apply for individual modules – the first workshop, Communication and Relationships is on 17-18 February.

The Leadership and Influence module is on 17-18 March, and the Coaching and Change module is on 14-15 April.

More info at or from me – 07 515 717 611,
There are also generous terms for people in particular circumstances. If you are hesitating because of funding – just contact me.

Voice of Influence Workshop

We have just had the latest Voice of Influence Workshop where participants achieved some great results. Here are snippets of the written comments from last week to give you a flavour:

Undoubtedly 2 days of my life well spent…  truly inspirational!  … I had real trepidation about this course but ended up having a really fun time … a wealth of voice and NLP experience to help you to achieve real improvements in how your present yourself to the world … Keep doing what you’re good at, as you’re truly amazing!!! … it was so much better than I ever imagined … we all gelled and felt really comfortable … you have given me confidence … so exciting, and so uplifting … I thank you with all my heart …   I have felt a load been lifted …  It’s been really fantastic  … content was clear, well-paced …  safe environment to stretch and learn and do it in such a seemingly effortless way … I was initially terrified … Relaxed, fun, interesting and I think eve ryone ‘grew’ quickly …  come away really wanting to put my hands-up for speaking gigs … quite a turnaround in two days! …  master at this topic and generously imparts her knowledge … subtly inspiring great shifts in her clients’ confidence … the workshop had a great flow … very relevant with lots of practical exercises that were imaginative and fun to do … really helped get the subject into my “muscles” … really interesting and enjoyable … a very authentic, attentive and skilled trainer … great role model …  2 really worthwhile days that have given me more awareness, skills and confidence … I have learnt a lot … really enjoyed the structure of the course … Really enjoyed the course … you attract some very kind and positive people … that is a great testament to you …

There is one more Voice of Influence Workshop this spring – on 31 March –
1 April. It is almost full, but there are still a few spaces. You can apply directly on-line or contact me. Is this your moment for finding your voice and your confidence?!

Look at the website

As usual there are lots of valuable resources on my website – have a look for free e-courses, my book Voice of Influence, articles, information about one-to-one coaching (the best thing of the last 20 years!) and more.

And a famous word on inter-connectedness:

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.  Albert Einstein

Warm good wishes

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