Chapter 4 – Understanding Principles

In a matters of style, swim with the current, in matters of principle stand like a rock.  -Thomas Jefferson                                                                                                                                                                   

LOGO FINALQuality IS…an anthology of principles.

Why establish concept to concept relationships?

If principles are understood then the meaning of Quality will follow.



Principles tell us how to thoughtfully put concepts to work. By the end of this chapter we will learn what a principle is and what it is not. We will learn how to recognize one, how to write one, how to analyze one, and why they are so critically imperative for processing information, applying knowledge, and changing preferences. Cognition is the process by which we recognize and understand things. Cognition is not viable without principles and allied concepts.   Let’s discover how a principle is typically labeled to garner a few conventional examples.

The most common labeling protocol for the word “principle” is connected with the preposition “of” and the allied key concept. For example: Principles of Composition, Principles of Physics, and Principles of Law. When the word ‘principle’ is associated in this way, by very wide-ranging concepts, it can make it very difficult to extract the principles from the text unless the author makes an attempt to specifically identify them for the reader.

A second widespread labeling format precedes the word ‘principle’ with a flashy adjective, for example, The 80/20 Principle or The Oz Principle; both examples are titles for books. A flashy combination of adjectives and a concept attracts the attention of potential readers.

A third way we label ‘principles’ is with a seemingly obtuse description that is not wide-ranging but very specific to a particular field of knowledge.  For example, in the field of Dendrochronology (the study of annual growth rings in trees) we have The Uniformitarian Principle and The Principle of Ecological Amplitude. Both of these principles target a specific outcome.

The final example for representing principles is through the use of a single word such as Responsibility or Consistency.  This is where we may get into trouble differentiating a concept from a principle because most writers proceed to define the concept and never approach a well thought-out principle.  This leaves the reader with the question, just what is the principle and how do I take action to put it to use?  Unfortunately, the lack of or the poorly stated principle leaves the reader possessing keen insight and understanding in the lurch. The problem stems from a philosophical approach that contributes to the intellectual bank but fails to provide utility. Utility is the quality or state of being useful.

How can we make principles useful?

Steven Covey will provide some insight in my next post.


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