I think your premise of “first principles” is still a little vague in this article. Maybe more examples that explain the premise would help. Overall the concept of the article is brilliant, because it describes the path of actual thought leaders, approach and ways of thinking. But even the physicist initially fell into the hole of analogous thinking. Which in fact does have its place in the innovation process. Even Elon Musk’s video in describing thinking about the battery does use ‘analogy’ to describe the components of the battery and to disprove the propensity for the cost of manufacturing batteries. However realistically there is a whole other set of thinking required to get it from concept to reality.
Another method (thinking process) to consider is user-centered thinking, that focuses on specific user need. Tagging off of Musk’s example: People need forms of transport, currently they use horses. New technology of the engine provides and opportunity to add wheels and a self contained fuel cell. Is it gasoline? Is it ethanol derived from corn? Is it burning of vegetable oil recycled after cooking fries? or is it a battery that can be recharged? Going back to “first principle” might make all of these things obsolete as ideas before even starting to innovate. While recognizing the user need might take you back to the essential factors and re-consider all of these options simultaneously. Understanding trade-offs or values of each factor. With the concept of first principle thinking might take people back to the idea of turning their garage into a horse barn and their lawn into a sustainable fuel garden, except for the problem of waste created by horses replacing all the cars. My point being that simply using a method used by physicists does not necessarily relate or translate to the thinking necessary to innovate new products and ideas by simply (and linearly) thinking of first principles.