Neuro-Linguistic Programming – Snake Oil or Powerful Management Tool?

For some years I’ve been observing the quiet infiltration of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) into many respectable professions. I’m not an expert on NLP but it seems to me to be a rather bizarre mixture of science, ancient religion and new age thinking. Lately, I’ve noticed it being used in the IT Security field, mainly for social-engineering exercises.

NLP is a highly controversial field that offers practical benefits, though it lacks a reliable scientific basis. Even the Wikipedia entry is disputed. If you believe its practitioners, you can read peoples’ subconscious signals and manipulate their behaviour. With a bit of practice you might even be able to hypnotize people into carrying out your suggestions. Of course the problem is that it’s not guaranteed to be 100% reliable, so you can easily be wrong or perhaps fooled by someone sending out false signals. So don’t try it for poker unless you’re certain your opponent is not an exponent.

So what should we do with this strange new tool? Exploit it or consign it to the dustbin? Some professional psychologists assure me it’s one of the most powerful tools in their armoury. Others tell me it is dangerous, to be avoided. It’s your choice. Because the jury will always be out on tools that only work some of the time.