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  • Writer's pictureColin Christensen

Low Resolution vs. High Resolution

I have really been enjoying listening to videos and podcasts lately by Jordan B Peterson. He is in the limelight right now for risking his career by standing up to the University of Toronto and others in helping to bring reasonable thinking and illuminating the effects of our short sighted thinking when it comes to the gender roles and general post-modernistic thinking. (If this isn't a compelling lead in sentence, I don't know what is - haha)

In a long and amazing interview with Joe Rogan, he used one of the best illustrations I have heard and it has already turned into one of my favourites. To heavily paraphrase, he said:

"idealism is a low res picture. When it's fuzzy, it's easy to have it fit everything. It's like a child drawing a helicopter. A couple of lines in an X, a circle, a stick and another circle and you can tell what it is. However, if you want it to fly, you will have to examine each part infinitely deeper to get a real understanding of what is needed to actually make it fly."

He also used likened it to the map above. Before we really understood things, we just drew it to the best of our ability. We can see this is a map of Europe. All the parts are there but they are not very accurate at all.

The problem with all low resolution ideologies is that they seem to fit everything - and they do when low res. They can work to get start a rough idea but can become very dangerous as a foundation or basis for a belief system. If I used the map above to get around in the scrutiny of the real world, I would surely crash somewhere. If I jumped into a real helicopter that looked like this, I'm not going to get off the ground.

To make this concept more practical for entrepreneurship, business and leadership. Having ideals or principles are excellent. If you don't dig in to make them higher resolution... to zoom in until you really understand them, you will be endlessly frustrated with their lack of success.

Further to that, consultants and leaders spouting values and principles without experience or substance might be very dangerous to the outcomes you hope for.

It's easy to be idealistic. I know, I tend to be. The discipline I need to keep engaged in is improving the resolution of those ideals. Not just holding to the low res ideology and trying to apply it as the blanket reason or answer for something but first going deeper by asking questions, arguing with the precepts, digging in until the resolution improves to such a point that I can defend it and understand the nuances of it to truly know how and why it holds water - or in this case - flies.

In a couple weeks I'm doing a talk for DEXIO where I will be breaking down a low res ideology: Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills. On the surface, you might say "that's a great principle". At the same time, it is easy to dismiss it or try applying it and finding that it doesn't work practically. However, if it truly is a principle, it should always work. If it doesn't work, maybe it is us who isn't applying it correctly. We're treating it as the low res image instead of working to get it to a point of high resolution.


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