Echoing Heraclitus, who said that you can only step into the same river once, Thiel believes that each moment in business happens only once. It's a point worth considering and is another layer to the mental model of time.
To Thiel there are two types of innovation. If you take something that exists and improve upon it you go from 1 to n. However, if we create something new on the other hand, we go from "0 to 1."
However, there is a "0 to 1" trap that a lot of people get stuck on.
When you get caught up in the sexy of creating something new, which is more difficult than people expect, your competitors might be going from "1 to n" and eating your lunch.
The world is a competitive place. Don't forget the lessons of co-evolution and the Red Queen Effect.
2. There is no formula for innovation and there never will be
The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula (for innovation) cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be more innovative.
Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.
When we set out to create a series of public workshops called Re:Think we decided to base them on developing fluency with first principle ideas and applying them to solve business problems. It's unlike any event you've ever been to.
3. The best interview question you can ask
Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: "What important truth do very few people agree with you on?" This is a question that sounds easy because it's straightforward. Actually, it's very hard to answer.
It's intellectually difficult because the knowledge that everyone is taught in school is by definition agreed upon. And it's psychologically difficult because anyone trying to answer must say something she knows to be unpopular. Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.
Most commonly, I hear answers like the following:
"Our educational system is broken and urgently needs to be fixed."
"America is exceptional."
"There is no God."
These are bad answers. The first and the second statements might be true, but many people already agree with them. The third statement simply takes one side in a familiar debate. A good answer takes the following form: "Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x."
What does this have to do with the future?
In the most minimal sense, the future is simply the set of all moments yet to come. But what makes the future distinctive and important isn't that it hasn't happened yet, but rather that it will be a time when the world looks different from today.
Most answers to the contrarian questions are different ways of seeing the present; good answers are as close as we can come to looking into the future.