To improve something, we need to understand why it is successful or not. Otherwise, we are just copying thoughts or behaviors without understanding why they worked. First principles thinking helps us avoid the problem of relying on someone else’s tactics without understanding the rationale behind them. Even incremental improvement is harder to achieve if we can’t identify the first principles.
Temple Grandin is famous for a couple of reasons. One, she is autistic, and was one of the first people to publicly disclose this fact and give insight into the inner workings of one type of autistic mind. Second, she is a scientist who has developed many techniques to improve the welfare of animals in the livestock industry.
One of the approaches she pioneered was the curved cattle chute. Previous to her experiments, cattle were put in a straight chute. Curved chutes, on the other hand, “are more efficient for handling cattle because they take advantage of the natural behavior of cattle. Cattle move through curved races more easily because they have a natural tendency to go back to where they came from.” Of course, science doesn’t stop with one innovation, and animal scientists continue to study the best way to treat livestock animals.
*This is an excerpt from our book, The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts. Learn more about the book and how to get it here.