First principle vs. analog thinking - Deepstash

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Elon Musks' "3-Step" First Principles Thinking: How to Think and Solve Difficult Problems Like a...

First principle vs. analog thinking

  • First principles thinking: actively questioning every assumption you think you know about a given problem or scenario  and then creating new knowledge and solutions from scratch. 
  • Reasoning by analogy: building knowledge and solving problems based on prior assumptions, beliefs and widely held ‘best practices’ approved by majority of people.

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Elon Musk

"I tend to approach things from a physics framework. And physics teaches you to reason from first principles ra..."

Elon Musk
The Two Types of Thinking

Comparison thinking: comes up with solutions based on pre-existing ideas. It is the way we normally think but it also limits the solutions to possible permutations of what already exists.

First principles thinking: starts free of preconceptions by studying the fundamentals of something and then working your way to a new thing. This helps you understand complex problems.

First Principles Thinking
First Principles Thinking

Is the act of deconstructing something to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there.

Also called reasoning from first principles, it effectively he...

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

“Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.”

One Method, Different Solutions

Different solutions present themselves at different layers of abstraction. Depending on how deep and thorough is your breakdown of the situation, putting them all back together may yield different solutions. 

First Principle Thinking In Practice

The CEO might re-envision the way his company tackles development, by bringing in other departments that don't normally get to participate in this work, and creating incentives for original thinkin...

4 Steps For First Principle Thinking
  1. Identify the problem you want to solve.
  2. List all the reasons you can't solve this problem.
  3. List all obvious solutions that apply but don't solve the problem adequately.
  4. Ask yourself: "If I could create a solution based on my desires, what would that solution be?"
Achieving Groundbreaking Innovation through First Principle Thinking

It may seem that practicing First Principle Thinking requires more mental energy and intellectual rigor, but it simply requires a different type of thinking and intellectual rigor. 

By definition, true innovation only occurs if we start with the First Principle. To make the leap from the impossible to the possible, we can't just iterate on what already exists.