You probably know him as the painter of the Mona Lisa or from The last Supper. Some also know him as a genius and homo universalis. The general public finally knows him from the fictional stories of Dan Brown. Leonardo da Vinci was the most important innovator of his time and has been regarded as the figurehead of the Italian Renaissance for centuries. Even in the new millennium, he still captivates, inspires and enchants. The reason for this, and what even the entrepreneur could now learn from the Leonardo da Vinci genius, is central to this blog.
Always learn, always observe
The biographies of Leonardo da Vinci's life, as well as the summaries and descriptions of his artworks, are numerous. More interesting than a flat description of his merits, however, is the search for an answer to the question of which characteristics of Leonardo's ways of thinking led to his success. What makes Leonardo da Vinci's worldview, even today, so appealing to the imagination?
The essence of Leonardo da Vinci's way of thinking is the continuous urge to learn and not to waste a second of your life. Da Vinci kept a diary in which he recorded his observations, reflections and insights on a daily basis. He always carried a notebook with him and spent large parts of his life observing the world around him.
For Leonardo da Vinci, there was no difference between science and art. He regarded his designs for a machine gun or flying machine as well as works of art as his paintings and sculptures. They were all the resultants of meticulous, unbiased observation of the world - for example, Da Vinci studied the flight of birds and based his design on a flying machine.
The unique way of thinking of Leonardo da Vinci can be explained on the basis of seven basic principles. Below we discuss the principles piece by piece and we build the bridge to how the entrepreneur can now get started with this.
The uncontrollable need to constantly ask questions with the aim of gaining insight and learning. Especially the why question and the how question can, even (or perhaps even) with logically appearing principles, lead to new insights.
Anyone who works or has worked in a large company will recognize that a lot of things or rules are 'just like that'. Or maybe you recognize it in you own company: you execute processes according to certain rules because you have always done that. But why? What if you started doing it differently? Or would not do anything at all? By asking these kinds of questions you come to the core of your truth and the world as you see it, and you may discover how you can make that world better or more beautiful. Be curious, about the world around you, but also about the way in which you and your company move about.
The will to learn from your mistakes and the urge to constantly test your own knowledge and truths. The best entrepreneurs (such as Elon Musk or Richard Branson) assume nothing for truth, want to gain experience instead of hearing it second hand and are constantly looking for opportunities for improvement. You would almost rather fail so that you can improve your business than everything goes smoothly and you don't know what your next action should be.
It is in the nature of people to want to be confirmed. We seldom allow ourselves to be convinced by other people's arguments - because when did you last change in political conviction? - and find it the most pleasant to be right. Rather right than luck. But whoever believes he is always right will never improve.
According to Da Vinci, it is better to get wrong often. To be improved. Gain new, better insights. Make mistakes and learn from them.
Which means as much as: let your senses do their work optimally. Leonardo da Vinci did it by spending large parts of his life observing the world and recording his findings. We currently live in a hurried society where superficial contact reigns supreme.
Take the time for things that inspire you or that are important to you. Allow yourself a respite and take the time to get to know this new business relationship. Put your phone and laptop away. Listen and look at what is happening in your department and question the things that strike you. Anyone who perceives only superficially can only act superficially.
The urge to stretch. We all continually shout that we would like to think 'out of the box', 'leave our comfort zone' and look for 'challenges'. But do you act accordingly? How many times a week do you make a decision that leads to uncertainty instead of certainty? We live in a world where all knowledge is available and any uncertainty can be solved with a short session on Wikipedia. But what does that do with your own development?
Try something completely new. Join a different department. Invite yourself to another company. Do things you are not sure about what they will deliver. Before you know it they will give you a lot.
According to Da Vinci, art and science were, so to speak, the same. Today we often assume that someone is either creative or scientifically skilled. Anyone who thinks like Da Vinci tries to find a balance between those two poles.
A tool for this is the mind map: the visual writing of thought processes and the relationships between concepts, experiences or principles. By getting to work creatively with perhaps the most dry food, you force yourself to find that balance.
Our brain depends on our body and vice versa. Vitality is the key word. Those who live modestly, take a rest, get enough sleep and take the time for a good breakfast can rely on a well-functioning brain.
Leonardo da Vinci has devoted his entire life to his physical care. He noticed, just like everyone else, that a bad night's rest was a guarantee for an unproductive day. Yet today we often get stuck in bad habits. We go to bed too late and do not eat breakfast or superficially. Teach yourself to take good care of yourself. Then your brain takes good care of you.
The final step: recognizing relationships and valuing them. This is where the bird's drawing transforms into a flying machine. With all the previous steps in mind, Leonardo da Vinci continuously succeeded in observing the cohesion of the world around him. Sounds floating? Perhaps, but realize that the best scientists, physicists and mathematicians all say the same thing. It is about recognizing relationships that others do not recognize.
In the end it is comparable to a chess game. If you manage to see how your next move has an impact on the next three, four, five (or eight?) Moves, you have an edge ahead of your competitor.
Adapting Da Vinci's way of thinking does not give you a new Mona Lisa, but you might develop a better view of your industry or your company. Watch how the master did it and try to learn from it. He didn't do anything else himself.