The Law of Requisite Variety

The Law of Requisite Variety

The Presupposition stated above can be thought of as an expression of the “Law of Requisite Variety.”   In the NLP understanding of how behavior occurs, “the person who creates the most choice in a given situation has the best chance of succeeding or of controlling that interaction.”  In other words, it’s considered a good strategy to generate more choices in a given situation.  As used in Cybernetics and Systems Theory, Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety states, “The larger the variety of actions available to a control system, the larger the variety of perturbations for which it is able to compensate.”  An interesting corollary to that is, “the amount of appropriate selection that can be performed is limited by the amount of information available.”   In other words, ‘if you don’t create choices, your options are necessarily going to be limited statistically.”

Most people, given a challenging situation, do what ‘fight or flight syndrome’ instinctually tells them they should do in order to survive.  When stressed or threatened, people do a number of things to protect or defend themselves.  For example, you may recall seeing a child who was not paying attention in a school setting and when called upon, did not know the correct answer to a problem.  The natural response, when called upon, is to tense the shoulders, look down, and slump shoulders downward and forward, putting the student in a poor posture.   You might have noticed sweating on the forehead or around the upper lip.  Other physiological cues include facial flushing, squinting, screwing up the nose, a quick heavy inhaling and then holding of breath.  There might be gutteral sounds and grunts emitted, “uuhhh’s’ and’aahhh’s’, or a squeaking sound as neck muscles contract, or simple a catch in the voice, and more.  Tightening of muscles especially around the neck and upper back, paired with slight pulling in or ‘ducking’ motion of the neck.  The tightness of the muscles tends to constrict blood flow to the brain.

The student cannot get enough oxygen into the brain.  The student tends to revert to any poor strategy at hand to relieve the humiliation, shame or other emotional response with regard to the unwanted attention.  Choice is shut down.  Ability to think and generate alternative solutions is shut down or limited.  Even a single event can be enough to cause our student to evaluate that he or she is ‘stupid’ or ‘bad’ or reaffirm negative existing programs like ‘I’m no good.’

Will Power Is a Poor Behavior Change Strategy

This translates to a basic understanding of how change occurs or does not occur for any person.  An NLP Life Change Pattern chosen for the purpose of unhooking a problem or ‘stuck state’ will include the understanding that when you try to force a behavior to stop, there tends to be resistance and a person can actually become more entrenched or ‘dug in’, clutching to whatever behavioral choice comes to mind.  This is where ‘positive intent’ becomes important.

Presupposing Positive Intent

This secondary Presupposition of NLP ‘The Law of Requisite Variety’ states that,’Every behavior has a positive intent and purpose.’  When I have also taken on the belief, I may also recognize that I have created the behavior for some reason.  It’s been doing something for me, but probably not what I wanted it to do.  I may even be able to understand or admit that what I’ve been doing is not working.  Almost certainly, I am no longer receiving the benefit of the original behavior and it’s underlying intent.  As soon I identify the underlying purpose for which I created the behavioral strategy, I am more likely to also recognize that there must be lots of ways I can get that underlying intention satisfied.  There must be some other possible behavior that could be applied to the situation.  Given more behavioral choice, I can then loosen my hold on the old habitual strategy or recurring behavior.  In short, I can now make new choices that I was not previously able to access.  I now have a better chance of success.