What Are Dilts’ Logical Levels? The Dilts’ Logical levels In A Nutshell

Dilts’ logical levels were created by organizational psychologist Robert B. Dilts. Dilts’ logical levels are a framework for personal development. They help an individual better understand themselves and their environment based on six logical levels: environment, behavior, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity and vision.

Understanding Dilts’ logical levels

The notion of logical levels of learning and change was initially conceived by anthropologist Gregory Bateson and based on logic and mathematics. Bateson identified four basic levels of learning and change, with each level incorporating elements from the level below it and each successive level having a greater degree of impact on an individual or system.

Dilts’ logical levels are an adaptation of the work done by Bateson, describing a hierarchy of process levels within an individual, group, or organization. The function of each logical level is to synthesize, organize, and direct the interactions on the level below it. Importantly, changing something on a higher level means lower levels must also change to support it. Changing something on a lower level, however, does not necessarily impact those above.

Fundamentally speaking, Dilts’ logical levels indicate the different degrees to which an individual thinks, feels, knows, or speaks. Lower levels encompass trivial or concrete thoughts, while higher levels are more complex, abstract, and meaningful.

According to Dilts, one can tell what logical level someone is operating on by the language they use to discuss their situation or problem. Some individuals become stuck on a level and see their problem as unsolvable. However, helping them move to another level gives them a fresh perspective, and the nature of the problem changes.

As a consequence, Dilts’ logical levels are used in problem-solving, personal development, conflict resolution, and motivation. The levels are also particularly useful to those in a position of leadership

Dilts’ six logical levels

With the above in mind, let’s take a look at each of the six levels that are sometimes represented as a pyramid:

  1. Environment – at the base of the pyramid is the environment. Every experience occurs in a temporal and spatial context, so the environmental level contains every external condition likely to affect a person. In the workplace, an employee may use adjectives to describe what their work environment looks like, sounds like, or feels like. From this, they may be able to identify a “vibe” that affects their experience.
  2. Behavior – on the next level up is behavior, encompassing the individual’s actions, words, gestures, movements, breathing, and perceived reactions to others. Collectively, behavior constitutes particular patterns of work, interaction, or communication at the individual and organizational levels.
  3. Capabilities – or how behaviors are generated and directed within the environment. For the individual, capabilities are typically associated with learning, decision-making, and creativity. For the organization, capabilities describe infrastructure supporting communication, innovation, and planning.
  4. Values and beliefs – what are the values and beliefs that underpin each capability? These fundamental traits motivate the person to act based on what they believe to be true based on previous experiences. It’s important to note that people can only utilize existing capabilities if there are corresponding beliefs that allow them to do so. Values and beliefs determine the meaning attributed to an event and are the foundation of company culture.
  5. Identity – the fifth level supports an individual or organizational sense of identity. They give each entity a sense of mission and purpose as small players in a much larger system. Dilts argued values and beliefs were comprised of two complementary aspects: the ego (survival, recognition, ambition) and the soul (purpose, contribution, mission).
  6. Vision – at the top of the pyramid is the level of professional, family, social, philosophical, or religious affiliation and vision. Vision can be thought of as a spiritual force that guides and shapes the life of an individual or business. As a result, it asks some big questions. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our reason for being? To what cause or greater system is the individual or business devoted?

Key takeaways:

  • Dilts’ logical levels are a framework for personal development created by organizational psychologist Robert B. Dilts. They help an individual better understand themselves and their environment.
  • Dilts’ logical levels are used in problem-solving, personal development, conflict resolution, leadership, and motivation. 
  • Dilts’ six logical levels are environment, behavior, capabilities, values and beliefs, identity, and vision. As one moves through each level, thoughts become less trivial and more complex or abstract.

Connected Business Heuristics

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Whereas divergent thinking is an unstructured problem-solving method where participants are encouraged to develop many innovative ideas or solutions to a given problem. Where convergent thinking might work for larger, mature organizations where divergent thinking is more suited for startups and innovative companies.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and any eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing observations, facts, evidence, and arguments to form a judgment about what someone reads, hears, says, or writes.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic means of investigating the factors and interactions that could contribute to a potential outcome. It is about thinking non-linearly, and understanding the second-order consequences of actions and input into the system.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

Other connected business strategy frameworks

PESTEL Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

STEEP Analysis

The STEEP analysis is a tool used to map the external factors that impact an organization. STEEP stands for the five key areas on which the analysis focuses: socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political. Usually, the STEEP analysis is complementary or alternative to other methods such as SWOT or PESTEL analyses.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

BCG Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Balanced Scorecard

First proposed by accounting academic Robert Kaplan, the balanced scorecard is a management system that allows an organization to focus on big-picture strategic goals. The four perspectives of the balanced scorecard include financial, customer, business process, and organizational capacity. From there, according to the balanced scorecard, it’s possible to have a holistic view of the business.

Blue Ocean Strategy

A blue ocean is a strategy where the boundaries of existing markets are redefined, and new uncontested markets are created. At its core, there is value innovation, for which uncontested markets are created, where competition is made irrelevant. And the cost-value trade-off is broken. Thus, companies following a blue ocean strategy offer much more value at a lower cost for the end customers.

Scenario Planning

Businesses use scenario planning to make assumptions on future events and how their respective business environments may change in response to those future events. Therefore, scenario planning identifies specific uncertainties – or different realities and how they might affect future business operations. Scenario planning attempts at better strategic decision-making by avoiding two pitfalls: underprediction, and over-prediction.

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