First Principles Thinking

Somesh Jha

About This Course

First principle thinking is a method of problem solving in which you break down a problem to a set of ab-initio (fundamental) truths and assumptions, then working up from there. This process can lead to new approaches, ideas, and ways of solving tough problems. This is a high energy and action oriented micro-workshop which will help participants explore the First Principles Thinking approach and use it at work.

Skill Drill 1 – Understanding the First Principles Thinking process (1.5 hours)

In this skill drill, we will work in groups on a set of challenging, but, fun, problem statements and:

Observe our default method of thinking and problem solving and identify the pitfalls and problems with them

Understand the first principles approach through examples

Use the first principles thinking approach on the set of problems (given earlier) and observe the mental and cognitive processes involved

Skill Drill 2 – Barriers to First Principles Thinking (1 hour)

The human mind has evolved shortcuts and heuristics to solve problems. This is the best survival strategy that the human mind could evolve. However, the same strategies that helped us survive also lead us to become poor at solving new sets of problems. In this skill drill, we will explore the mental processes that impede problem solving. These are:

• Einstellung effect

• Functional fixedness

• Status quo bias

Skill Drill 3 – First Principles Thinking and innovation (1 hour)

In this skill drill, we will look at various examples of how people have used first principles thinking to create innovative products and breakthrough solutions. Using these examples, we will explore how first principle thinking can be used to dramatically improve products, designs, and solve problems better. In this skill drill, we will also evolve a process for using the first principle thinking approach.

Skill Drill 4 – Using the First Principle Thinking approach (1.5 hours)

In this skill drill, we will explore everyday work-related issues and problems that participants face and apply the first principle thinking approach to them.

Note: This is session may require pre-planning and identification of the most pertinent problems. At the end of this session, participants would have re-framed and got better insights into the problem (if not full solutions).

Post Workshop Support:

  • Learners select a problem @ work on which they can apply First Principles Thinking. Learners report their experiences after two weeks through an online survey


Learning Objectives

Appreciate the importance of First Principles Thinking as a method of problem solving
Understand the factors that act as hindrances to problem solving
Create processes to apply First Principles Thinking
Use First Principles Thinking to innovate and find creative solutions

Target Audience

  • Manager
First Principle Thinking
Duration 5 hours

Material Includes

  • Activities
  • Storytelling
  • Videos/Talks
  • Simulations