Knowing vs. Doing; which is more helpful or useful?

Many who know me find me a very outspoken critic of 7-day (or shorter) NLP Practitioner courses.  I’m especially critical of those which train more than about twenty people at a time.  I find such courses to be a dark pollutant in the field.  From what I’ve observed, these courses consistently produce very poorly trained Practitioners.  I won’t even include “home study courses” that promise Practitioner certification; that’s great for information, terrible for skills.  So lets explore the differences between Knowing vs. Doing.

Many other trainers have had the same experience that I have.  I’ve observed these “7-day Practitioners” showing up at Master Practitioner courses I’ve trained, and often to my shorter courses.  They consistently display a notable absence of the level of skill and knowledge that any good practitioner ought to have.

Here are two completely different learning paradigms (slightly oversimplified down to 2 styles, for illustration.)

  • Learning to KNOW… in order to DO.
  • Learning to DO… in order to KNOW.

I’d like to briefly explore the fundamental differences between these two.

Learning to Know, in order to Do (Paradigm #1)

The 1st paradigm (1st “knowing” and then “doing.”) seems to be behind most “7-day Practitioner” students.  These students have information and knowledge, and can often talk a good game, but can’t walk the talk.  They have no behavioral integration.

So, I don’t even recognize this as training.  I recognize it as presenting, with behavioral integration as an afterthought.

Learning to Do, in order to Know (Paradigm #2)

This paradigm is always my preference, and I do know some other trainers still prefer it as well.  (2022 comment:  You cannot easily achieve this with Zoom/online training)

With this approach, behavioral integration is built into every exercise.  Groups don’t even move on from one topic to another until they’ve behaviorally integrated each piece. Granted, they’ll likely be clunky after only doing something a few times. But, they can DO it — and then the knowing and integrating comes during & afterwards.

This method can be frustrating to those who feel they need outline academic style presentations first.  These folks can’t jump into exercises until they think they “fully understand” what it is they’re doing.   I understand why some people feel this way.  But the experimental and experiential nature of the second paradigm is what makes it succeed.  This paradigm transfers skills FAR more quickly and deeply than the first method.

Knowing vs. Doing?  Doing beats knowing every time!

Doing first instead of Knowing first, is one of the key differences that makes the difference.   “7-day Practitioners” will probably never see it as important, because they’re certain they “covered all the material.”  It was in the syllabus. It was in the manual.  It was covered.

Unfortunately, just because it was covered in the manual and presented onstage, doesn’t mean students integrated skill.

Personally I believe the prevalence of “7-day Practitioner trainings” is evidence of a trainer “selling out.”  Because literally anyone can describe all the NLP skills in 7 days or less.  But few if any can train deep skills in that time.

So regardless of the duration of the course you take, I strongly recommend the following criteria:

IF deep skills are what you’re after… demand that your trainer effectively demonstrate every skill they describe, creatively, on the fly.  Without “cheat sheets” or notes.  Demand they train in a format where you can then perform those skills yourself, and get their feedback.  Throughout the course, not just once in a while.

I propose to you that many trainers who run 7-day or shorter certification courses… will not be able to do this well.

Author: Jonathan Altfeld