Interpretations v. Principles

The third GAIL is interpretation. What is an interpretation? It is defined as, “an explanation or way of explaining.”

Recently, Farnham Street published an article, ““First Principles: The Building Blocks of True Knowledge”. One example shared was about Elon Musk, “I think people’s thinking process is too bound by convention or analogy to prior experiences. It’s rare that people try to think of something on a first principles basis. They’ll say, “We’ll do that because it’s always been done that way.” Or they’ll not do it because “Well, nobody’s ever done that, so it must not be good. But that’s just a ridiculous way to think. You have to build up the reasoning from the ground up—’from the first principles’ is the phrase that’s used in physics. You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that, and then you see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work, and it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past.”

The fault with interpretations is that often they are a habitual perspective that is comfortable, that worked in the past, and is recited by rote memory.

As a vital member of a company, your contributions are unique. Your perspective, experiences, and skill set are part of the hiring agreement that informs your role within the community of the organization.

Interpretations can be an energy saver for you and your brain in the short term.

However, in the long term interpretations can limit the breadth of your creativity in problem solving.

So, 5 steps to take for a test drive when faced with a challenge:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define the issue
  3. Start generating ideas
  4. Experiment with possible solutions
  5. Test out the solutions with a wider application

These 5 steps are a model of design thinking. With those 5 steps, you can leave the GAIL’s behind while you forge ahead to create new models for every challenge. As a coach, I can support you in your efforts to make this shift. Call or email me. (804) 372- 7575 or

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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