First Principles Thinking


A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Aristotle said a first principle was “the first basis from which a thing is known.” The base fact. Descartes, was a first principles thinker saying he would, “systematically doubt everything he could possibly doubt until he was left with what he saw as purely indubitable truths.” When you think like that, you end up with a rocket with minimal heat shielding that lands on its own. As a taxpayer, I’m predisposed to really like that!

There is a certain confidence in first principles thinking. When you get to that little nugget of fundamental data, your way back up to something useful is full of knowledge. First principles thinking is a super power for problem solving, but even more so for ideation. You see the problem with new eyes, and the opportunity becomes clear.

First Principles Thinking is a way of saying ‘think like a scientist’. Scientists do not make assumptions. First Principles Training allows you to reverse engineer problems to unleash creative possibilities. The idea is to break down complicated problems into basic elements and re-assemble them from the ground up.

For NASA in the late 60’s, the next great challenge was a reusable craft to make going to space just like jumping on a United flight. Every analogy the engineers used was of a winged craft. Thus, quickly reusability became synonymous with wings. Fast forward 20 years, and you had a massively complex spacecraft with very limited usability. That same analogy of wings retarded the engineering of real spacecraft usability for another 20 years.

As a pilot, I am predisposed to absolutely love the Space Shuttle, and I do. However, as a first principles thinker, I look at the Space Shuttle as failed engineering. SpaceX’s use of first principles thinking has destroyed the economic model for space flight for every aerospace player. Their lack of an analogy for reusability resulted in a deep dive into not only defining reusability for spacecraft, but also propellants, scalability, and what defines a landing pad!

First Principles Training

My First Principles Training gives you all of the knowledge and skills to become a confident problem solver. This course will change how you ideate as well. I teach you how to stop using analogies and question assumptions. I also show learners how to find and eliminate bias along their solution path. As with all of my classes, I keep it light and free of prerequisite barriers. Since all of my classes are live, you have someone there to answer your questions, something first principles thinkers like.

Why first? What's a principle? Thinker?

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