Tosey P, Mathison J: Fabulous Creatures of HRD: a critical natural history of Neuro-Linguistic Programming'.
Paper for the Eighth International Conference on HRD Research and Practice Across Europe, 27th - 29th June, 2007, Oxford Brookes Business School., 2007.
Abstract: Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an emergent and contested approach to communication and personal development. Created in the 1970's in the USA by Richard Bandler and John Grinder at the University of Santa Cruz, it has a global presence, with training provided mostly in the UK, USA and Australia. As evidenced by literature from NLP associations, websites, publications and conferences, and by our acquaintance with training providers and networks, NLP is used widely by professional practitioners such as managers, trainers, coaches, sales people, market researchers, counsellors, medics, psychotherapists, lawyers and more.
Notably for HRD, NLP has become popular in the business world (Knight 2002), probably due to its practical, accessible and goal-oriented approach. There is increasing application of NLP to coaching (Hall & Duval 2004) and to leadership development (Deering et al 2002). However, there is little academic work to date on this field and NLP has attracted considerable hostility from some quarters. There has been little dialogue between the NLP practitioner community and academic researchers, although there is growing interest within the NLP community in forging such connections.
We straddle this academic-practitioner divide, having experienced NLP as trainees, using it in our professional practice (including coaching, management training, and teaching in Higher Education), and are now investigating its theoretical and empirical provenance. Based on all this, we offer here a synthesis of the types of criticism that are raised, and which may be relevant to NLP's acceptance within HRD.