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First Principles, Innovation & Design

First Principles, Innovation & Design

Innovation entails pushing boundaries, exploring the undiscovered and bettering status quo. We wouldn’t survive, evolve nor thrive without this innate urge to constantly seek something better nor without our ability to adapt to new situations.

So, here we are, understanding that everything man-made is designed — literally everything we experience is an outcome of synthesising ideas — and recognising that, in every aspect of our lives, we are all the beneficiaries of someone else’s genius.

When we think of innovation, many of us associate it with the most known inventions and inventors. We also tend to think that innovating is somewhat reserved only for the geniuses, the mavericks, and the gifted. But is it really? Also, let’s see if innovation starts only once we take out the sketchpad, draft the first business plan and become an entrepreneur?

It begins with questioning the status quo — not only investigating opportunities in whatever we’d want to improve — but also examining our own process of thinking while innovating. How might we successfully arrive at a viable idea? How can we innovate more effectively? Is there any framework that could enhance our problem-solving ability, accelerate our ideation process, and also make us more efficient at finding the right solution? Well then, let’s talk about First Principles.

 

“Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.” Elon Musk

 

First Principles help us upgrade our default way of thinking to a more powerful one. It’s a process by which we break a problem down into basic elements and then reassemble them in a new way, all while dismissing every assumption until we are left with the fundamental truth that can’t be deduced any further. In other words, we are reverse-engineering a problem whilst completely discarding conventional wisdom, dogma and biases from our thinking. Doing this leaves us only with facts, which then allows us to clearly see the problem as it is and to also see what opportunities are possible.

Simply put, First Principles is one of the best ways to learn to think for ourselves and to unlock our creative potential. Now we can see that problem-solving not based on facts is like having a compass surrounded by magnets — it will pull us in all directions but the right one. First Principles save us time and also point towards the right paths in which pushing boundaries, exploring and bettering the status quo is worthwhile.

 

Big things start small.” Jeff Bezoss

 

From implementing incremental improvements to an existing idea, service or product, to the most revolutionary invention of the century, innovations big and small follow the same pattern — questioning, exploring and defining a viable solution to an existing problem — which is in fact a universal pattern for also dealing with any problems that are work and life related.

Recognising that we can all already innovate to a certain extent, integrating these principles into our everyday thinking would inevitably yield benefits. Once they’d open up the world of possibilities in front of us, we could become even better designers, better researchers, better businessmen… better at ideation, better at problem-solving and even better at inventing! Just imagine how easily First Principles can be used in favour of UX design, research, engineering, testing, strategy, branding, writing, budgeting…

So we now know that innovation isn’t just for the chosen few, but attainable by all of us — it’s up to us to master our way of thinking and to change the world!

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