Distinguishing Distinctions – A Definition

In the next few posts, I’m going to dive into the deep end and explore the world of distinctions (see “Glossary“)

At its heart, the Rapid Skill Transfer Protocol is alllll about making fine-grained distinctions (see “What Sets RSTP Apart from Traditional Skill Transference Approaches“).  And the way that I’m defining the term is one that I’ve developed specifically for RSTP purposes.

A distinction is made up of two parts: 

  1. A CHARACTERISTIC or PROPERTY of something (amount, length, speed, frequency, height, time, pressure, direction, temperature, color)
  2. THE DIFFERENT VALUES OF THAT PROPERTY (short, medium, long; 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec; red, blue, green)

Some examples:               

Length

  • Short, medium, long
  • 4 cm, 5 cm, 10 cm

Time

  • 20 seconds, 24 hours, 3 days

Temperature

  • Low, medium, high
  • 350 degrees, 400 degrees, 450 degrees

Direction

  •                 Clock-wise, counter-clockwise
  •                 Left, right
  •                 Up, down
  •                 Angles: 45°, 90°, 180° 

Color

  •                 Red, blue, green

A distinction is made when the difference in the value of a characteristic or property makes one thing FUNDAMENTALLY different from another thing.  For skill transference purposes, a characteristic or property is not a fundamental property, if a difference in the values applied has no perceptible impact on the desired outcome (eg the cool graphics on my snowboard aren’t going to make a hill-of-beans of difference whether or not I orient myself to the board in such a precise way as to keep myself from catching an edge and executing a perfectly painful face plant in the snow). 

Said another way – a distinction is the difference in value of a characteristic or property that makes an actual/realized difference in anticipated outcome. 

It’s important to know that the property and the value of the property are only significant in relationship to the specific desired outcome.  Let’s break down one of my favorite examples of the importance of making accurate/significant/fundamentally sound distinctions, the ignorance of which forever gridlocks cities with every snowfall…

  • Desired Outcome – to STOP in the snow
  • Property being examined: the drive train of the car
  • Values of that Property: 2 wheel-drive and 4 wheel-drive
  • Does a difference in the values applied (2WD vs 4WD) have a perceptible impact on the desired outcome (STOPPING in the snow) – no!

Now, let’s look at the same two values of the same property in relationship to a different desired outcome…

  • Desired Outcome – to DRIVE in the snow
  • Property being examined: the drive train of the car
  • Values of that Property: 2 wheel-drive and 4 wheel-drive
  • Does a difference in the values applied (2WD vs 4WD) have a perceptible impact on the desired outcome (DRIVING in the snow) – YES!
Next, I’ll be exploring the differences between the coarser-level “distinctions”, and their finer-grained cousin, the “micro-distinction” (see “Micro-Distinctions as Measureable Distinctions” )
Also, if you’d like to read more about a real-world experience with making distinctions, see “TESTING, TESTING – SNOWBOARDING THEORY, Part 10b – Carving – Distinctions.”

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