How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

da-vinci-profileThe Top 10 Big Ideas

1. Experience a Personal Renaissance by Cultivating Insatiable Curiosity

By nature children are curious, but as we grow up much of our inquisitiveness ebbs.

Almost all children in their natural state ask lots of questions. That’s how they learn so much in the first five years of life. But then we send them to school where they learn that answers are more important than questions. Geniuses like da Vinci, however, maintain a passionate curiosity throughout life.

2. Nurture Independent Thinking by Rigorously Consider Different Viewpoints

Diversity is critical for creativity and innovation, which is why it’s important to seek out points of view different from your own. The problem is the more senior someone becomes the more likely they’re going to believe their own publicity and surround themselves with people who always agree with them. So the more senior you become, the more concerted effort you must make to seek out different opinions. Then you have a chance to think independently.

3. Open Your Mind by Questioning Your Values, Attitudes, Beliefs and Expectations

Many of us are unaware of the sources we use to obtain and verify information. We know that we have opinions, assumptions, and beliefs about a wide variety of topics: human nature, ethics, politics, meaning of life, parenting, etc. But do you know how you found those beliefs? Or where you got the information on which they’re based? What criteria do you use for assessing the validity of information you receive? Aim to determine, through reflection and contemplation, the dominant sources. Is there a way you could test your convictions in experience?

4. Put More “Dolce” in Your “Vita” by Training All Your Senses

This means listening well and being observant – simple advice that’s difficult to heed in an increasingly distracted world.

The Italians have la dolce vita, the sweet soulful life. The French have joie de vivre, the joy of living and in the States all we have is happy hour.

We’re really talking about mindfulness, paying close attention to what’s happening right now. Not only can it help you be more creative, it’s the key to enjoying life.

Get better in tune with your senses by training them to appreciate beauty. Listen to music, appreciate art, thoughtfully taste wine or chocolate, write poetry…

5. Awaken Your Appreciation of Beauty by Creating a Brain Nourishing Environment

Leonardo’s studio was a sensory treasure trove filled with music, flowers and beautiful scents. In the manner of the maestro, find a peaceful, beautiful, well-lit haven for yourself.

6. Become a Better Problem-Solver by Learning to Embrace Uncertainty and Ambiguity

The ability to project confidence in the face of the unknown is a critical leadership principle because if it’s going to be new, it means you don’t know it. You need to get comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity in order for a creative idea to emerge. It’s not easy to do since you’ve likely been trained to believe that if you don’t know the answer, there’s something wrong with you. But the essence of creativity is to be surprised, to come up with something you really didn’t know. That’s the nova in innovation. It’s the newness. And if you keep doing the same old thing, you won’t do the new thing. But when you suspend the old thing, the new thing doesn’t always automatically emerge. So there’s a big gap and the more you’re able to embrace that gap of knowing and uncertainty, the greater the likelihood that you’ll be really creative.

7. Balance Logic and Imagination by Learning How to Mind Map

You used to be able to get by with saying you’re a right-brain (creative, imaginative, intuitive) or left-brain (logical, analytical, and linear) thinker. Today you have to be both.

To use both hemispheres of their brain in harmony, learn Mind Mapping, a way of organizing ideas that integrates logic and imagination and helps people generate more ideas in less time.

To do it, you start by drawing something that represents the topic you’re thinking about. From there you use free association to branch words and more pictures from the center image. For example, a doodle of an onion might make you think of vegetables, so you draw a carrot, which makes you draw a rabbit, which leads to you sketch a cat, since it’s another small furry animal.

What if you can’t draw? “Fake it ’til you make it” and overcome your adult judgment of your drawing ability.You start to access that more childlike quality where you just drew without worrying about it. What’s happening when you do that is you’re waking up parts of your brain that have been dormant since you were in nursery school. And those are exactly the parts of your brain that are going to help you be more creative.

8. Integrate Body and Mind Through the Alexander Technique and Qigong

You might not know that Leonardo was an exceptional athlete, widely known as the strongest man in Florence and an accomplished athlete, fencer, and horseman.

We think of creativity as an intellectual exercise but it requires tremendous energy. Learning to cultivate your life force, your life energy is a very important part of this.

9. Develop Your Wisdom by Becoming a Systems Thinker

Logical and linear-thinking types–engineers, analysts, and scientists, for example–can have a hard time looking for patterns and new connections, but doing so is the key to creativity.

Again, use mind mapping, although it takes a while to train these kinds of folks since they’re used to doing things in a formal order.

At first it feels very messy… thinking through association and letting the mind go free and generating lots of key words and other images in different directions.

10. Take a Holistic Approach to Clarifying Your Purpose, Values and Goals

Vision crafting refers to the process of writing and creating a shared sense of meaning and responsibility for visions, missions, strategies, ethics, values, and principles. A vision inspires you to arrive at work with enthusiasm. A mission guides what you do when you get there. A strategy is how you do it. A statement of ethics, values, or principles guides your actions and relationships with co-workers, clients, vendors, and others.

Vision crafting sets the tone for the success of any venture. To set the right tone, statements must be:
Juicy—inspiring, energizing, alive
Original—a unique expression of you, your company or team
Succinct—every word packed with meaning
Inclusive—reflecting the concerns of all stakeholders
Positive—active, focused, and affirming
Memorable—everyone knows it by heart
Aligned—with universal principles and basic goodness
Integrated—into everyday behavior.

(Source: Michael Gelb)

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