first prin·ci·ples


the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based

First Principles can be applied to all facets of life and learning and serves as the foundation for the methods, applications, and processes you use every day.

From Einstein's theory of relativity to the basic laws of gravity, much of the research that is done is aimed at finding out the fundamental truths of that subject—its First Principles. These foundational theories have led to invention and innovation by applying them to solve a particular problem.

First Principles are often the "let's get back to basics" strategy. Musicians practice their scales, athletes practice their technique, and companies scale back to their core competencies. This is why coaches are so important—they constantly reinforce the principles relevant to their area of expertise. However, this discipline is not always evident in the business world. 

Methods based on principles can provide a shortcut to reaching your goals. They can save time—and effort—in the right circumstances. However, methods often only teach you one approach. Principles teach you the core of what you need to do, allowing you to choose the best method to solve your problem. To focus on methods in areas core to your work or your business is to limit your ability to innovate and translate. And so whether to choose methods or principles depends on your ultimate goal.

+ How do you know when you've focused on methods rather than principles?
  • You are limited in your applications of what you've learned—you find it difficult to extrapolate to new situations
  • You ask "how" more than you ask "why" when learning something new
+ What are the benefits of First Principles thinking?
  • Simplifies and clarifies your thinking leading to better decisions
  • Reduces rework because you lay the right foundation to start
  • Helps you better learn new skills
+ When should you invest in learning principles?
  • If it is fundamental to the work you do, how you run your business, or the value you provide your customers
    • Using service providers should not be a long-term solution if their offering is critical to your work or business

Nicole Phillips, BSc, MBA


About Nicole

An underlying theme and passion in Nicole's life has been process and organization. From a very young age, she was attuned to understanding how things work and the natural order of things, and sought to break things down to their basic components and simplify as much as possible.

Starting at her high school job where she vastly improved a product ordering process, reducing time required and order errors, to reorganizing how data was stored and managed at an international research centre, significantly improving accuracy and integrity, Nicole continued to apply this type of thinking throughout her career.

Using this approach, Nicole can often quickly see connections and solve problems in unique ways. With Strada3 Consulting, she works with her clients on how to apply this type of thinking to what is integral to their day-to-day personal and professional lives—process, productivity and planning—and how to extrapolate this thinking to other facets of their work and life.