First Principles in Product Design

I saw a Youtube video today regarding the thought process of Elon Musk, courtesy to the algorythm (yes, I made it easy for them by watching probably 90% of all available Elon related videos). The idea was on something called the “First Principle,” which is really just a fancy name for what you could call a ‘truth’ or ‘irrefutable truth.’ This concept is not new to the Arts, as I previously dabbled in some acting classes I came across a certain method multiple times and this method was an approach to acting (there are many). In order for the actor to portray a realistic performance, they had to first find the truth in their character and within the scene and it is from this truth that they could ‘do and say’ as the living and breathing character. This method from what I’ve gathered is really just used so that you, the actor does not judge the character (cognitive bias) and end up making decisions that is either cliche or obvious.

In this video Elon Musk goes on to explain how breaking down the different materials required to make a battery into their fundamental compounds and sourcing them in a more cost efficient way has allowed him to build what is now becoming the worlds leading electric cars. This is the “First Prinicple” mindset, a way of breaking down problems into to their most absolute irrefutable form.

When solving for a problem it is tempting to first have the ‘form’ or vehicle in mind instead of the irrefutable truth. An example of this in product design is reflexively thinking “ok, I need to design an app,” when the user problem is “I don’t know how to tie my shoelace.” Do we really need another app? Is this app the best vehicle to solve my problems? Can people with these problems use the app? Why don’t they know how to perform this task? etc. Just like in acting, when prematurely judging your character instead of basing off of absolute truths it is easy to act out or create solutions in accordance to our cognitive bias in the form of perhaps unfitting vehicles (in this case an app).

In product design, during the research phase is when we define the problem statement. It is where we consolidate the irrefutable truth for the project, to which the user problem is broken down to its most convergent point. From there we are able to start developing solutions with minimal cognitive bias.

Here is the link to the video so that you do not think im absolutely insane.

UX/UI Designer