First Principles Thinking MethodTop 4 Questions for the Entrepreneurs:
How can we use the First Principles Thinking approach to create a startup? (You can also read, the entrepreneur’s dream)
When creating a start-up, an entrepreneur is confronted with the most fundamental problem: to copy or not to copy. Most people would opt for copying others’ ideas or can make the existing idea better which is essentially not a bad thing.
Needless to say that most of us are content with average performance in life or career, therefore, copying or following others is normal. Again, not a bad thing because it works for most people. Probably, a civilization is mostly made of contribution from average people. It is debatable, I guess.
However, great startups do not copy others or settle for average results (or impact). This is how the crazy entrepreneurial mindset should work. To this I might add, the Good Lord has ordained them to be so.
It feels great when you read exciting stories about the successful start-ups but it is not a fun thing or a desirable experience if you know what it takes. Long-hours at work, little personal/social life and putting up with people who you, otherwise, would not even let near yourself, are just a few of the problems from a long list that comes with doing your own business.
It is a real hard work if you want to innovate and create a startup based on an original idea.
I have included the following most basic questions that confront the entrepreneur. This is the essence of innovative marketing practices at the entrepreneurial stage of a business. The 4 questions are generally understood by an executive as they often try to answer them at the earlier stage of business when planning. The questions are also helpful to conduct a review of the existing market orientation of a firm.
Who is my customer? (target market/segment)
What does my business do for my customer? (solution)
Why does my business exist? (purpose)
What is my business strategy? ( How can I solve the problem better and differently)
Ideally, if you cannot answer these questions differently in your target market segment, then you are simply another boring addition on the street. It actually means average performance or bloody losses for your startup!
Answering the above questions via first principles would lead to a groundbreaking innovation in the market. Even if it is not groundbreaking, still you would end up in a better place of the market.
Using “First principles” Thinking to Find Marketing Answers
These, simple but extremely difficult, questions above are enough to drive entrepreneurs out of their beds for countless nights. If you ask those who want to make a difference and have been through this process, they would tell you how hard it is to keep your sanity intact especially if you are working your way up using the “first principles” rules.
Honestly, I tried it and I had to run away 🙂 that’s why probably I am not an inventor now. Ah!
“First Principles thinking” is a pretty normal approach among the hardcore scientists but can it be applied to a business, is the bazillion dollar question?
“First Principles Thinking” approach encourages thinking at the basic level of truth known about any situation/problem. It does not encourage you to take any existing examples and also it does not allow you to make any comparison. This approach is, essentially, at the heart of all hardcore innovations.
It seems we have to subvert the existing paradigm with an extreme innovation, otherwise, we are no good according to this principle.
This is how Elon Musk has understood this concept.
It means you have to start from the known laws either from the hardcore sciences or social sciences and work your way up to create something new. For example, there are basic laws of gravity in physics or physics of flight universally known and make the fundamental truths.
As a company, can you work your way up from the fundamental truth to help yourself fly without focusing on the ideas of products and machines that already exist manipulating the same universally known principles? The existing machine, product or process is the analogy (here which you must avoid copying). You need to bypass this analogy(of existing product/service) and start from the “first principles” building your way up to find a solution.
Think about a crazy man who rejects all the accumulated wisdom of the aeroplane manufacturing and decides to build something that will help us fly… Hell, we can’t even call that an aeroplane then. Hopefully, you can now understand the gravity of the matter at hand. Firs Principles Thinking is not a light thing at all.
The 4 questions above are generally well understood by learned entrepreneurs especially if they have studied some fundamentals of business. To create a start-up, one needs to answer these question using the approach of First Principles without using an analogy(comparison) from the existing market.
Again, I tried it! It takes a lot of time and layers upon layers of ideas emerge that turns into a massive cloud of confusion stalling the thinking process altogether. You are cursed by the constant of overlap and competing alternatives. It is really a taxing process on the brain and one can easily be overwhelmed. For more utilitarian perspective on thinking clearly, you can read Dobelli’s book
I cannot claim whether you need to be a naturally gifted intelligent person or not, in order to make use of First Principles Thinking. All I can confidently say it is going to be really really hard for normal people.
The problem is that most of us do not train our mind to focus better and think original. Instead, a bad focus and following others is the norma that we develop during the course of our lives.
Both of these habits would put you at disadvantage in First Principles Thinking process.
How Elon Musk Thinks: The First Principles Method
How often do we use “first principles Thinking” as a problem-solving approach in our life?
Will update from time to time as I am exploring this concept…. editing and proofreading is often missed when I make changes in the text. Please suggest readings from the natural sciences if you can on First Principles Thinking.