Some of the most brilliant minds of all time were/are successful not because of how hard they work(ed), but because of how they thought/think. The genius problem-solving method is called 'first principles thinking', which is the practice of actively questioning assumptions about a given problem or scenario , and then creating new knowledge and solutions.

Below are three simple steps:

1: Identify and define your current assumptions.

2: Break down the problem into its fundamental principles.

3: Create new solutions from scratch.

On the flip side, problem-solving by analogy is based on prior assumptions, beliefs and widely held ‘best practices’. The problem with assumptions is that they limit thinking, and therefore even people who are very smart tend to make bad decisions when using this reasoning method.

As kids we were all amazing first principal thinkers, asking “why”, “why”, “why” to everything, seeking to understand. Then as adults, unless we keep pushing ourselves, we run the risk of just accepting the answer “it’s just the way it is”; an answer we refused to accept as kids.

So next time you're faced with complex problems, don't default to thinking like everybody else. Instead, think outside the box and imagine completely new answers to questions by identifying your current assumptions, and break these down into fundamental truths and create new solutions from scratch .

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” - Albert Einstein

Inspired by: Medium - Elon Musks’ “3-Step” First Principles Thinking: How to Think and Solve Difficult Problems Like a Genius, by Mayo Oshin