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15 Ideas on Creativity from Leonardo da Vinci

I am not a huge fan of biographies. It is tedious most of the time and takes a long time to read. However, I got into biographies thanks to Walter Isaacson. His book on Steve Jobs was the first one I read. After that I have read all his biographies including his latest on Leonardo […]

I am not a huge fan of biographies. It is tedious most of the time and takes a long time to read. However, I got into biographies thanks to Walter Isaacson. His book on Steve Jobs was the first one I read. After that I have read all his biographies including his latest on Leonardo da Vinci. It was illuminating and informative on one of the most creative men of any time. There was a section on lessons to learn from Leonardo. Here are 15 of them with my take on each.

Be relentlessly curious — Curiosity is the hallmark of creativity. Being curious is also a sign of having a growth mindset. Being teachable helps us in bringing our creativity to the fore. Being open to everything can help our curiosity. Never be afraid of asking questions.

Seek knowledge for its own sake — Leonardo did not know how heart valves work to paint Mona Lisa but he still did it. Sometimes we should just pursue something despite whatever results may show up.

Retain a childlike sense of wonder — Wonder and awe are great signs of creativity. This also promotes an openness to innovative ideas. It also promotes flexibility and with workforce becoming more agile this is a key skill to have.

Observe — Be a keen observer of everything around you. Observation skills are necessary to produce any art. This can also increase your powers of concentration.

Start with the details — Obviously someone who did the Last Supper or Mona Lisa must be a person who was highly detail-oriented. Sweating the minute details when doing a towering work is a necessary requirement to be a genius.

See things unseen — Leonardo could see birds in flight. As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I don’t skate to where the puck is I skate to where the puck is going to be.” The ability to see around corners is a key hallmark of all creative geniuses.

Go down rabbit holes — Leonardo filled the openings pages of one of his notebooks with 169 attempts. The point is we need to go deep in any attempt towards producing art that matters.

Get distracted — Distraction through entertainment is not what is meant here. This could be some sort of hobbies which makes you more creative or engages your mind. This allows you to switch off from the day to day activities and provides a fertile ground for creativity to flourish.

Respect facts — Leonardo always changed his decisions based on facts. The takeaway for all of us is we cannot be bound by our original decisions if the facts prove otherwise. Being flexible and nimble is the need of the hour.

Procrastinate — Leonardo used to stare at his work on Last Supper for an hour and finally just make one stroke before leaving. This shows that all creatives are great at procrastinating. Adam Grant in Originals says sometimes we should wait for the final moment before we do something. Not being planned all the time is also good for creativity.

Let perfect be enemy of good — Obviously a genius like Leonardo would never be satisfied with good. He was always shooting for perfect. Steve Jobs is another example of someone who never gave up till the design was jaw dropping.

Avoid silos — Here the example of Steve Jobs is provided. At the end of most presentations Steve Jobs used to show the intersection between liberal arts and technology. This simply means we should avoid thinking of just one subject and combine it with multiple areas of interest.

Collaborate — Any art worth its salt requires some sort of collaboration. All of us can create art in whichever form but we do need to collaborate. Even writing an article requires books, sources and other ideas. None of us are an island.

Take notes on paper — The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory. Journaling is such a life enhancing activity that every author on personal development seems to mention it. Creativity flourishes on the written paper. So, maintain a notepad near your bedside and jot down thoughts. Initially they will not be earth shattering but once we start putting ideas on paper we get better at creativity.

Be open to mystery — Finally be totally open to anything that comes your way. Being open to mystery ensures that you are not blindsided completely when some of our ideas never take off or create the impact we wanted. It can also work the other way around.

I really feel if we adopt some of these ideas we will become more creative in whatever we do. Creativity is the key skill of the 21st Century.

Thanks for reading this post. The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.

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