Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
There are two types of thinking when it comes to brainstorming and tackling problems; one is comparison thinking and the other is first principles thinking.
Comparison thinking is when you come up with a solution using a mixture of pre-existing ideas. We tend to do this because our minds can become quite limited and often tries to find the easy way out by building on or tweaking an idea that is already out there. The problem with this is we begin the brainstorming or problem-solving from a space of assumption rather than questioning – we build on what has already been established rather than finding and questioning from a new basic level.
First principles thinking is about starting from a clean slate and free from any pre-existing ideas making it a much better approach to problem-solving and creating innovative ideas. It’s about starting with the core fundamental basics and working your way up from there.
By following first principles thinking, it helps you gather a better understanding of complex problems and better knowledge of the unknown leading to unique innovative thinking. Comparison thinking leads us to think in terms of analogy whereas first principles thinking allows us to potentially see something in much finer detail.
The three questions you should use to focus your mind and break free of limited assumptions are:
- What am I trying to accomplish?
- What is the fundamental problem?
- What really matters to the people I’m reaching with this?
This allows you to get to your core motivation and understanding rather than using an existing idea and trying to see how to make it better.
Summing-up: First principles thinking is about breaking out of limited thinking and the assumptions that we tend to conclude from previous evidence. It’s about looking at something from a new angle. It’s about questioning until you reach the core answer. Try applying this to your work life and see how the possibilities can multiply.