By Steven Bartlett, co-founder of Social Chain and global marketing speaker  

Since the first lockdown, despite the economic turmoil, statistics have shown that there has been a surge of new businesses across Britain.  

Many entrepreneurs took the opportunity to set out on their own with SMEs accounting for 99.9% of the business population in 2020. 

But with all these new ventures evolving, how can you put yourself in the best position to achieve success? How do you ensure that you can edge above your competitors? 

My advice for success in 2021: apply first principles thinking. 

What is first principles thinking? 

First principles thinking is the process of identifying a new approach that is more appropriate, efficient and ultimately profitable. It is challenging convention to find the optimal solution. 

When unsure of how to do something – convention acts as our safety net. It is a tried-and-tested method proven to work, and so it is natural to follow suit. However, with the rate at which the world is adapting and changing, convention is becoming less and less reliable.  

We must start re-evaluating our thought process and questioning the conventional methods of doing things. Only then will we find the most advantageous solution. 

Learn from 2020 – and apply first principles thinking 

2020 was a year of unexpected transition. The world changed, we adapted.  

Rather than relying on accepted methods of doing things, 2020 forced us to modify our habits and adapt to a new normal. 

One of the key transitions for many was adapting to working within a remote workforce. A problem required a new solution and with that solution came change and many of those changes were positive. 

When we do return to the office, our normal methods of working will have changed. We will no longer need to stick to a strict 9-5 working day. We have the tools and skills required to accommodate a remote workforce so we can use this to our advantage and provide our employees with greater flexibility. 

A return to conventional methods of work now would seem like a step backwards. It is our responsibility to respond to the transitory world that we live in.  

As the working world continues to evolve, sometimes at an alarming pace, we need to shift our habits to ensure these changes are both swift and permanent. 

Try to bypass the noise of convention 

Old habits die hard. 

It is easy to return to convention when you are unsure of how to do something or fearful of how change will affect the end result. 

In the last year, the world has course-corrected at a scale we have not seen since the last World War. It is imperative that we move past this and focus on the pursuit of finding the best possible answer to any given problem.  

A new way of doing things has the potential to be more efficient and cost-effective; yet we are so set in our ways that we often fail to recognise the best solution to a problem. 

Many have an aversion to change. Challenge them. Find the most efficient way to complete a task and be creative whilst doing it. Try things out and don’t be afraid to get things wrong. 

Don’t avoid convention for the sake of it 

It would be wrong to say that convention is always inefficient. It’s not.  

First principles thinking is not against conventional thinking; rather, it is the pursuit of finding the best possible answer to a problem. More often than not, convention is the solution.  

But 10% of the time, it isn’t. It’s that 10% that will make all the difference.  

The push to be innovative and outside your scope of thinking will allow you to succeed in breaking down existing market barriers.  

If your method adds value, it will be successful. If your method adds value, it is key that you push for it.

These insights were aired by Steven Bartlett on thninetwentynine podcast by Fiverr