Break down problems into First Principles and develop non-standard solutions!

First Principles

First principles lay out complex problems into their most fundamental components and then use logic and deduction to arrive at new, innovative solutions.

A First principle is rooted in ancient Greek philosophy and was further developed by the philosopher and scientist René Descartes. It involves breaking down complex problems into their most basic components and logical reasoning for innovative solutions. Elon Musk is a well-known proponent of this approach and has used it to drive innovation in his various companies.

First Principles thinking can be applied to a wide range of problems, from business strategy to product design, and it is particularly useful in situations where existing solutions are inadequate or where new solutions are required.

First Principles Framework
First Principles Framework

How to use it

For utilizing the First Principles framework, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the problem: Define the problem or challenge you want to address and make sure you fully understand it.
  2. Break down the problem: Break it down into its most fundamental components, and identify the basic principles that govern it.
  3. Question assumptions: Challenge assumptions and look for ways to think outside the box.
  4. Reason based on First Principles: Use logical deduction to arrive at new, innovative solutions, not constrained by preconceived notions or previous decisions.
  5. Test and iterate: Test your solutions and be willing to iterate and refine your ideas as you go.
  6. Practice: Apply the First Principles approach regularly to problems of increasing complexity in order to develop your skills.

By following these steps, you can use the First Principles thinking  effectively to solve complex problems and generate innovative solutions. Remember to be curious, persistent, and open-minded as you apply this approach to your problem-solving challenges.


Let’s take a look at SpaceX, one of Elon Musk’s companies that designs and launches rockets. When SpaceX was first starting, they realized that the cost of launching rockets was outrageously expensive, mainly because of the high cost of rocket fuel.

SpaceX used the First Principles approach to break down the problem and identify the underlying principles. They realized that the cost of rocket fuel was high because the industry was using an inefficient and outdated method.
By reasoning from First Principles, SpaceX was able to develop a new, innovative solution. They created a new rocket engine that used a more efficient and cost-effective fuel source, which significantly reduced the cost of launching rockets.


First principles thinking is a valuable problem-solving tool that can be used in various business settings. To apply the First Principles approach effectively, individuals need to develop a range of soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, and persistence. An interactive book summary by Storist can be a valuable tool for anyone looking to develop these skills and enhance their problem-solving abilities.

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