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The Genius Problem-Solving Method Elon Musk Learned From Aristotle

First Principle

First Principle

Is a foundational truth that is "known by nature". It is not an assumption or deduction based on another theory or supposition but it’s also not an absolute truth but rather an observed one, meaning further analysis might prove it imprecise.

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The Genius Problem-Solving Method Elon Musk Learned From Aristotle

The Genius Problem-Solving Method Elon Musk Learned From Aristotle

https://www.inc.com/david-straus/the-genius-problem-solving-method-elon-musk-learne.html

inc.com

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Key Ideas

First Principle

Is a foundational truth that is "known by nature". It is not an assumption or deduction based on another theory or supposition but it’s also not an absolute truth but rather an observed one, meaning further analysis might prove it imprecise.

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 thinking from anyone in the company.

On a personal level, you may make yourself more open to other people's perspectives and find value on discussions that you may not have previously had. 

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.

"All great Acts of Genius began with the same consideration: Do not be constrained by your present reality."

Leonardo Da Vinci

"All great Acts of Genius began with the same consideration: Do not be constrained by your present reality."

Leonardo Da Vinci

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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.”

First Principle

A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. 

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First Principle
First Principle

Is a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

"… it's important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. We are doing this because it's like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. But with first principles, you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and then reason up from there."

First Principles Thinking

Also known as Deconstruction, it’s a way of thinking supported by Elon Musk and many scientists. It consists of breaking what you know into its components until its fundamental parts can be ...

Applying First Principles Thinking

1. Deconstruct and look at the components of what you're working on and question all the assumptions you have about them. Think of different ways the same function can be accomplished.

2. Deconstruct it and mash it up with products or concepts from different contexts to generate new ideas. 

Using Decision Trees
  • Understand the different outcomes that could happen (both positive and negative)
  • Calculate the expected return or loss of each outcome
  • Attach a probability to each outcome
  • ...
Use Decision Trees 

Elon Musk uses decision trees to make big decisions (a tool that uses a tree-like graph or model of decisions and their possible consequences, outcomes, and resources). They are particularly useful for avoiding stupid risks and big bets that aren’t likely to succeed.

Most became a billionaire by making unlikely big bets, as their expected return statistically was much higher than safer bets.

Build Deep, Long-Term Relationships

One of the best ways to get information is not from just being better at searching Google, it’s from learning how to build a network and get the information you need through that network. 

This network should include people’s lessons learned and hacks, topics that are too sensitive to talk about because they make someone look bad, and tacit knowledge (knowledge that people have but aren’t able to articulate).

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Failure As A Tool
Failure As A Tool

If we look at the number of failures and setbacks in Elon Musk’s life, we begin to see why he is so successful.

The Tesla and Space X CEO uses failure as a tool towards eventual succes...

Early Years Of Elon Musk
  • Right from childhood, Elon Musk preferred books over people, often devouring them at one go.
  • He was an introvert and a deep thinker and began to gather deep insights about life and how to shape humanity and the future of mankind.
  • Musk eventually developed a practical and efficient approach towards goals and carried the drive to follow through.
Reaching Golas By Embracing Failure

Elon Musk shows the world how big, audacious goals can be achieved by dividing them into smaller milestones and embracing failure and negative feedback.

His goals are not something he is doing for the media circus, but something in which he is emotionally committed. Goals work when they are bigger than ourselves, enhancing our commitment and responsibility towards them.

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Elon Musk

"Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles ..."

Elon Musk
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.
Elon Musk's 3 steps Principle Thinking
  1. Identify and define your current assumptions;
  2. Breakdown the problem into its fundamental principles;
  3. Create new solutions from scratch.

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Tesla’s innovation strategy

Tesla’s innovation strategy offers lasting lessons for any innovator, especially in terms of

  • how to win support for an idea and
  • how to bring new technologies to th...
Innovation Capital

There are four factors how innovators build up their innovation capital: Who you are, who you know, what you have done, your ability to draw attention to your ideas. Most notably, innovation capital is something accumulated over time through thoughtful action.

The Cybertruck is then about getting attention and proving that Tesla is one of the world's most innovative companies, specifically for the purpose of building Tesla's ability to win support from stakeholders.

Winning the resources

Elon Musk is a master of building and using innovation capital to win support for his ideas. To gain support:

  • He leverages his past success at PayPal and Space X
  • He uses "impression amplifiers". He does more than talk about the new idea. He puts it into physical form to convince skeptics.
  • He broadcasts the idea through big media launches to generate a buzz.
  • He compares or draws a comparison between his innovation and some other successful one to create an impression of technical superiority.

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The next Oprah

While everyone would want to be the next Oprah, the place is already taken.

The right approach is being yourself, or a better, refined version of yourself, to the 'smallest viable audience', ...

Outliers

Outliers are extreme examples of people who are on the outer edge of success or have a radically different life, glorified by the media.

Following Outliers leads normal people to make decisions based on false hope and highly unlikely possibilities.



Unique Circumstances

We need safe, nurturing environments to be our best, to blossom into what we truly are destined for, no matter how big or small, in our unique way.

We are provided with unnecessary pain and suffering by the constant comparison with people who are born radically different from us and are having different circumstances. 

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First-principles thinking

Breaking down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble them from the ground up.

It’s one of the best ways to learn to think for yourself, unlock your creative poten...

A first principle

...is a foundational proposition or assumption that stands alone. We cannot deduce first principles from any other proposition or assumption.

Reasoning by first principles removes the impurity of assumptions and conventions. What remains is the essentials. 

Cutting through the dogma

If we never learn to take something apart, test the assumptions, and reconstruct it, we end up trapped in what other people tell us.

We remain trapped in the way things have always been done. When the environment changes, we just continue as if things were the same.

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