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First principles thinking is the act of boiling a process down to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there.
First principles thinking is a fancy way of saying "think like a scientist." Scientists don't assume anything. They start with questions like, What are we absolutely sure is true? What has been proven?
Imagine you have three things:
Now, let's break these items down into their constituent parts:
What can you create from these individual parts? One option is to make a snowmobile by combining the handlebars and seat from the bike, the metal treads from the tank, and the motor and skis from the boat.
Be wary of the ideas you inherit. Old conventions and previous forms are often accepted without question and, once accepted, they set a boundary around creativity.
Continuous improvement tends to occur within the boundary set by the original vision. By comparison, first principles thinking requires you to abandon your allegiance to previous forms and put the function front and center. What are you trying to accomplish? What is the functional outcome you are looking to achieve?
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