All too often we get our frame of reference from analogy. We intuitively look for previous examples and model our understanding of the world and the solutions we develop, on this frame.
Analogy works as a shortcut — and as such is useful and necessary. But it also prevents us from developing unique solutions.
Elon Musk recently said this very succinctly:
“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths… and then reason up from there.”
Looking at the problem you are trying to solve — what is the most fundamental truth in your problem space? And how can you build on top of this?