Solve Problems in 3 Steps with First-Principles Thinking

Become a Pro Problem-Solver

Pause to Reflect.

Have you ever learned systematic problem-solving at school?

How come some individuals consistently excel at innovative solutions? Think Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, and other great minds.

They share more than just intellect and hard work. There's another secret ingredient to their success – a method called First Principles Thinking.

What is First Principles Thinking?

It involves breaking down problems into their basic elements and reconstructing them in new, creative ways.

This approach can lead you to unexpected breakthroughs. Unlike the usual 'reasoning by analogy' or copying with slight variations.

Elon Musk and other global leaders such as at Netflix and McKinsey swear by it.

My Experience

I've used First Principles Thinking for 10 years in various roles - from a start-up founder to a consultant.

Here's how I simplify it into three practical steps:

  1. Question Your Assumptions

    Whenever you face an assumption, challenge it. Ask yourself: Why am I so sure about this?

    For example:

    I cannot grow my online business anymore. — How do I know?


    I will never find a good, loving partner — Why would I think that?

  2. Break Down the Problem

    Identify the core issue and dissect it. For instance, if you're not growing your online business, ask what 'growth' means for you.

    Break it down further into components like revenue and cost, then into more granular elements like traffic, conversion rates, and cost reduction strategies.

    Visual aids like a logic tree can be helpful here:

  1. Create Fresh Solutions

    Now, focus on the key elements identified. Brainstorm innovative ways to enhance these areas, considering feasibility and impact.

    Group the ideas into Winners, Losers, and Maybes, then integrate the best ones into your overall plan.

Great Problem-Solvers Mix Methodologies

I find combining First Principles with Design Thinking and System Thinking especially potent.

Design Thinking ensures I'm addressing the right problem creatively, while System Thinking lets me consider broader impacts and contexts.

This trio leads to what I call Magical Solutions. It just never fails me.

Every challenge is a chance to grow

I see every challenge as an opportunity to apply this method and make exciting discoveries.

First Principles Thinking isn't just a problem-solving technique; it's a way to spark innovation and see the world from new, unexplored perspectives.

Have you tried it yet?

For more real-world examples and step-by-step guides join our inner circle program for young professionals and leaders here:

See you inside.

- Alex