On the Creative Edge

As the Creative Edge of NLP

L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.

  • What is it about Meta-States that makes it so creative?
  • What do you attribute your own creativity to?
  • Why are more new patterns, models and processes coming out of Neuro-Semantics than the rest of NLP altogether?
  • How has Neuro-Semantics become the creative edge of NLP?
  • What’s the secret of writing so many articles and books?

Every week I’m asked these and many other similar questions.  Sometimes these questions arise when I talk about the 120 patterns that we have in NS and compare that to the estimated 130 to 150 NLP patterns.  People then ask, “How have you developed so many patterns so quickly?”  Sometimes it arises when I say that every week I am receiving or hearing about someone in NS coming up with another new pattern.  Recently it has come up with the announcement of the first Neuro-Semantics Developers Colloquium (scheduled for Feb. 2003).

Whatever the trigger for the question, many are now talking about the fresh and prolific creativity in Neuro-Semantics.  Nor is it just about myself, it’s about many of the other key players in NS.  So, what accounts for this?  How can we explain it?

The Creativity of Reflexivity

Studies in creativity all highlight the bilateral thinking, the metaphorical thinking, and the wild, crazy, twists and turns that suddenly give birth to a new idea or insight.   Considering this, is it any wonder that a model about reflexivity itself, and of the self-reflexive consciousness that goes in circles, that spirals round and round, and that turns and twists onto itself should not generate many fresh new ideas?  With the mixing and mingling of ideas and experiences—no wonder new combinations occur.  Creativity inheres in the meta-stating process.

Meta-States as a model about reflexivity and that models how reflexivity works in our mind-body-emotion system, promotes creativity in many ways.  For one thing, it invites a non-linear kind of thinking.  In this it differs radically from the Strategy model of tracking the representational steps through a Test-Operate-Test-Exit black-box system.  In strategy work we try to hold our mind to a step-by-step process, going forward and then backwards until we get all of the representational steps.  It’s very linear.  And without question, that linear approach has and can generate lots of new creative ideas.  Look at what Robert Dilts has done with his Strategies of Genius series.  Talk about top-notch modeling using that approach!  It’s also been an approach that has led to much creativity.

Yet, that’s not how our brains work.  Our brains go in circles.  Our mind-emotion system spirals round and round ideas.  To learn this kind of non-linear processing, we have to develop such meta-states as the tolerance of ambiguity or better yet, the embracing of ambiguity, the celebration of confusion, the delight in paradox, the wonder of humor, and the willingness to explore without needing closure.  Consider these states.  As meta-states, these describe many of the facets of what we call “creativity.”

This suggests that there’s a fresh surprising facet of meta-stating itself.  The reflexivity that drives it also invites new creative mixtures of state-upon-state structures. As we give up trying to nail everything down in a strict cause-effect linear fashion, we open ourselves up to the spinning creativity of a mind in wild pursuit of an idea.  It opens us up to how a non-linear system works with system cause-effect influences.

The Creativity of Texturing Our States

What is the “creative” state?

We know that it involves seeing things in a fresh way.  It involves releasing judgment and pressure.  It involves an openness to the unknown, a welcoming of confusion, a willingness to explore without having an agenda, and a tolerance for mixing together strange and wild concoctions of the mind.  Using the Disney Strategy, we know that it involves the Dreamer state, the Realistic state, and the Testing State in a sequence that allows an initial idea to grow and develop.  It is opting for options as a modus operandi.

So what is the creative state?

What state are you in when you’re creative, when you are innovating new things?

Usually it’s a state of being curious and playful.  We’re “just thinking” about things and then suddenly, out of the blue, in a serendipitous way, something new comes to us.

Stories are told by creative people and their biographers of not trying to be creative, or not trying to invent something new, in fact, taking a bath, going for a walk, riding in a car, even dreaming while sound asleep.  Then the unexpected happens.  Sometimes they don’t even know it.  Sometimes they don’t even put the creative insight together with the problem on their mind.  They have to explore things further, test things, and play around with things before it dawns on them.

All of this has led many to map out creativity as too wild and unpredictable to be managed or controlled in any way.  Others have noted these factors and mapped creativity as having several stages.  The most typical strategy or stages of creativity involve the following:

First there is the encountering a problem stage and engaging that problem with all of one’s current resources.  This is the stage of study, research, questioning, interviewing others, finding out what others have tried, etc.

Second, there comes the putting the concern on the back-burner stage.  Here one sets aside the problem and lets it go.  Here we turn aside to other things, often things of pleasure and relaxation.  Here we let the parts of our mind outside of conscious awareness work on the idea.

Third, then there is the eureka insight stage.  Suddenly flashes of insights come to us.  Sometimes they come full blown and ready to implement.  Yet most of the time they come in little bits and pieces, flashes of this and that, fragile little curiosities and still need the conscious mind to see the connections or apply to the problem.

What have I learn form all of this?  I have learned that creativity is not a primary state.  Creativity is a meta-state.   It is a state of curiosity and playfulness textured with some rich higher frames– recognition of a problem, intelligent defining and understanding of that problem, researching the current state of the art paradigms, willingness to try the ridiculous, to be open to the preposterous, playing around with thoughts that are outside the box, etc.

Of course, this also describes the heart of Meta-States and the focus of the numerous articles and patterns we have about texturing our states and super-charging any given state with numerous higher level states.  We call this meta-state gestalting.  Why?  Because out of the mixture of the states upon states comes something that’s more than the sum of the parts, the gestalt state.

The Creativity of Time-Binding

Howard Gardner in his book, Creative Minds, explored seven key creative geniuses of the 20th century and demonstrated repeatedly the pattern that it took most of them ten years in a field before they knew the field well enough, and the problems of the current paradigms of that field before they were able to make a creative breakthrough.  This is suggestive.

What does that suggest about creativity?  It suggests that the best creativity isn’t re-inventing the computer over and over, it is rather building on the paradigms, models, and intelligence of those who have gone before.  Korzybski called this time-binding to designate the creative force of building upon the ideas and patterns of others, of standing on the shoulders of giants.  That is what allows us to see further and to invent new things.

Now to do that without giving credit is plagiarism– a problem indicating the lack of professional ethics in many fields.  It’s also a problem that indicates the lack of community, the abundance frame, the cooperation frame, etc.  Could this be one of the influences that has undermined creativity in the field of NLP?   Have the frames of competition and scarcity undermined the rich creativity that gave birth to NLP?

In Neuro-Semantics we have mindfully sought to cultivate the very opposite.  We have intentionally set forth frames that support abundance, cooperation, professional recognition and respect, etc. as our guiding principles.  We have also set forth frames that support and promote new ideas so that we don’t waste our time fussing over who created specific “intellectual property.”   Gardner noted this in his work when he said that it takes a community for the products of creativity to be recognized and honored.  Without a community, who is to honor the new things?  Without a community that’s forthright, honest, ethical, and operating from a sense of abundance, who will support the new ideas that emerge?

That’s one of the reasons we are hosting the NS Developers trainings.  We want to create the networking processes so that many others can move to the ranks of developers and be recognized for their contributions.  This is the creativity that arises when a community “drives away fear” from its midst and does not use heavy-handed tactics (demanding conformity, presenting one procedure as “the right procedure,” etc.).

The Creativity of Accessing Your Personal Genius

Finally, but not least is our emphasis upon Personal Genius.  This indeed is the heart and how we initiate trainings in Meta-States.  How or why did we decide to do things in this way?  It actually came together very early in the development of Meta-States.  When I first came upon Meta-States, I looked throughout all of the literature of NLP for other works that deal with the same subject.  There were none.

The only other book in NLP that even addressed the subject of reflexivity was the Grinder and DeLozier book, Turtles all the Way Down.   In their preliminary studies and modeling of some of Bateson’s work on meta-levels (logical levels and types), Grinder and DeLozier gathered together some of the prerequisites of genius and then noted that it could only be through the use of “logical levels” that one could manage a truly strong and power first-order attention.

Yet their model was quite convoluted.  It took them seven days just to present it.  Yet what they found was powerful.  So using the Meta-States structure, I reformulated it and over the years streamlined it to offer the Genius Pattern as a thirty-minute process.  Today we run Personal Genius Pattern in most of our trainings.  We run it for Writing and Research, for Selling Excellence, NS Trainers Training, Wealth Building, Business Experts, etc.

The Personal Genius Pattern, of course, provides yet another description and process for creativity.  It does so by enabling us to get so absolutely lost and focus in some present moment experience that we become totally engaged so that we are fully there with all of our resources available.  Further, we develop the higher meta-state frames that allows us to make “an impeccable state shift” out of that state whenever we need to without any loss of focus or power.  This supports trusting ourselves and trusting that we can turn on this laser-beam focus state whenever we want it.

These are a few of the key facets of Meta-States that explains the abundant creativity and fresh ideas in Neuro-Semantics that’s missing for the most part in NLP.  Want to be a part?  Then begin by learning about the Meta-States model and learning how to texture your basic curiosity and optimism and solution focus mind-set with other layers of thoughts and feelings that transform your everyday experience into one of creativity.


  • There’s a new and fresh creativity in Neuro-Semantics that has continued unabated for more than 8 years and only seems to be growing.  Further that creativity is not limited to just one person, but seems to be spreading to many people in NS.
  • The creativity that’s emerging in Neuro-Semantics as the cutting new edge of NLP is based in the original model, the Meta-States model, that involves many of the facets and features that we recognize as the ingredients of creativity.


L. Michael Hall discovered Meta-States in 1994, Frame Games in 1998, and the Matrix Model in 2002.  From these models have come over 30 published books, hundreds of articles and research papers, partnership with Dr. Bodenhamer in 11 books and the creation of Neuro-Semantics, and Institutes of NS in over 20 countries.