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First Principles: How To Reinvent Your Clinic

April 14, 2020

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You’ll never get the chance again, none of us will. Our industry, based on history, will remain open for the remainder of our lifetimes. This once-in-100-years pandemic will come to an end, and we will be initially relieved and excited as clients start flowing into our clinics.
Then, maybe we will wonder what else we could have done to change or revitalise our business in the wake of COVID-19. We have already spoken about the Grand Re-opening Strategy, and how you can relaunch your business with a deafening boom, but what about the way your business works, what it offers and where it exists in the market?

First principles are a way of thinking that enables you, as a clinic owner, to deliver exactly what your client wants, or to market your business in a way that appeals to your target market directly, or to redecorate your clinic in a style that will excite anyone who sees it.

It’s a simple, commonsense approach that has been around for thousands of years, and you can start using it now.

Aristotle was one of the original practitioners of first principles, and Elon musk references the strategy in many of his interviews. It’s been used to create some of the most important businesses, charities and ideas in our history, and is just as applicable when dealing with a child during lockdown as it is to send a rocket into space.

Here is how it works. A first principle is something obvious and a basis for further decision-making. Prominent examples include the sun rising every day, water being wet and gravity stopping us from flying around.

The thing is, not all first principles are created equal and some, perhaps most, require questioning. The best example of this, at least from a business standpoint, is to analyse the difference between a top-class chef, and a chef who is capable.
A capable chef can put together a menu of delicious meals based on their understanding of flavours, seasonal availability and the techniques required to combine different types of produce. They understand, if you like, the rules of putting together a wonderful dish.
The best chefs in the world have access to the same produce, are restricted by the same seasonality and also know how to combine ingredients. However, they are not afraid to question the rules – the first principles – that govern what is “good,” and “bad,” in the kitchen. The most extraordinary innovations in cooking have come about through chefs fearlessly combining flavours that don’t work, introducing techniques that don’t belong in a kitchen, and using tools that are completely inappropriate.
Imagine the first time a chef suggested cooking with liquid nitrogen, a dangerous liquid that was used for commercial applications under controlled conditions.

Those who challenge first principles are not restricted by tradition, or “the way things are done.” Of course, in order to use the technique, you don’t need to be challenging historic or industry norms, you can simply look critically at the way you are doing things.
Ask yourself, why do we do this? Is there a better way? What could improve the experience for our client?

Children are masters of this technique, and as adults we do our best to enforce first principles with clumsy arguments.
“Can I have a chocolate?” asks the child.
“No,” we reply.
“Because I said so.”
“But why?”
“Because chocolate will make you sick.”
“But I’ve had more chocolate than this before.”
“Look, I said no”
Children seek to understand and we (most often for their own good) defend rules or beliefs that often can’t be justified.

This is your opportunity to challenge your rules and beliefs. Explain first principles to your staff, friends and family and asked them to challenge your existing model. What can be better? What else can you offer? You might notice that your knee-jerk reaction to some suggestions is to squash them reactively. This is because the first principles (often known as commonsense) are deeply ingrained in your psyche. It’s your job to challenge that.

Push yourself. Again, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get a chance to do this again.

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