First-principles thinking is one of the best ways to reverse-engineer complicated problems and unleash creative possibility.
A first principle is a foundational proposition or assumption that stands alone and can’t be broken down any further.
Cooking as an example
The difference between the cook and the chef: terms often used interchangeably yet have an important nuance.
- The chef is a trailblazer, the person who invents recipes.
- Understands the flavor profiles and combinations at a fundamental level that doesn’t require a recipe
- He has real knowledge vs know-how
- The cook, who reasons by analogy, uses a recipe
- He creates something, perhaps with slight variations, that’s already been created.
- If the cook lost the recipe, he’d be screwed
First-principles reasoning cuts through dogma and removes the blinders. We can see the world as it is and see what is possible.
Techniques for Establishing First Principles
A disciplined questioning process, used to establish truths, reveal underlying assumptions, and separate knowledge from ignorance
The Five Whys
Often employed by children to understand what’s happening in the world
An interrogative technique exploring the cause-and-effect relationship of problems
Employing First Principles in Your Daily Life
Move away from incremental improvement and into possibility
Letting others think for us means that we’re using their analogies, their conventions, and their possibilities. It means we’ve inherited a world that conforms to what they think.
When we step back and cut through the flawed analogies, we see what is possible.
First-principles thinking clears the clutter of what we’ve told ourselves and allows us to rebuild from the ground up.
Human brains mistakenly apply linear thinking to nonlinear phenomena.
Linear Bias in Practice
Managers mistakenly prioritize volume and costs over price, without realizing how much extra volume is needed to recuperate loss in profit.
There also exists nonlinear relationships between attitudes and behavior.
Four Types of Nonlinear Relationships
Increasing gradually, then rising steeply
Decreasing gradually, then dropping quickly
Climbing quickly, then tapering off
Falling sharply, then gradually
How to Limit the Pitfalls of Linear Bias
Increase awareness of linear bias.
Prioritize outcomes and not indicators and metrics that don’t have a linear relationship.
Understand the type of nonlinearity one is dealing with in order to prevent overestimations and fall trap to bias.
Use visualization tools to see how changes in variables can correspond to changes in other variables, especially when dealing with nonlinear relationships.
Linear bias is present everywhere, not just businesses. Thus, people need to be aware of pitfalls and apply disciplines to not fall for bias.
Maintaining and using energy wisely is the most effective way to maximize productivity. Below are tactics used by the most productive people to ensure they are working at maximum levels of productivity.
Types of energy:
Physical Energy: The foundation of everything you do. It's the type of energy that's most easily influenced but most often neglected
Emotional Energy: How you're feeling at any given moment. It dictates more than half of your behavior and decision making.
Mental Energy: The highest order of energy, only achievable when you have the physical and emotional stamina to be observant, perceptive, and focus.
How to increase energy:
Physical Energy: Sleep is paramount and should not be underestimated. To compensate for lack of sleep take naps. And if those aren’t possible, taking 10 minute breaks every 90 minutes to 2 hours becomes a saving grace.
Emotional Energy: A big part of changing your emotions is understanding their triggers. If you know your triggers, you can decide whether to respond to them or not.
Mental energy allows you to have a much fuller view of what’s actually happening within your company and on your team. You hold onto your mental energy by observing yourself inwardly without buying into everything
Ask yourself “Are these thoughts I’m having even true?”