Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.
Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs, cites principles as his key to success.
Principles are hierarchical--some are overarching and some are less important--but they all should inform the policies that guide your individual decisions. It pays to think those policies through to ensure that they are consistent with each other and the principles they are derived from.
When faced with a case that doesn't have a clear policy to follow (for example, what to do about an employee whose job is to travel but who faces potential health risks because of his travel), one can't just snatch an answer out of the blue without regard for higher-level principles. Policymakers must make policy in the same way that the judicial system creates case law--iteratively and incrementally, by dealing with specific cases and interpreting the law as it applies to them.
That is how I have tried to operate. When a case arises, I lay out the principles behind how I am handling it and get in sync with others to see if we agree on those principles or must modify them to make them better. By and large, that's how all Bridgewater's principles and policies were developed.