For the past year, we've been discussing the mind of Leonardo da Vinci and the intellectual qualities that helped make him one of the greatest innovators of all time. Here, we revisit those qualities — the seven pillars of creativity as outlined in Michael J. Gelb's inspirational book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci — and what each means to us, the engineers behind the automated systems and machines that keep the world turning.
Curiosita — Intellectual curiosity is the seed of creativity. Never stop learning, and never settle for an incomplete understanding of anything that requires or captures your attention. “Learning never exhausts the mind,” da Vinci wrote. So on the job and elsewhere, be diligent about getting to the bottom of things.
Dimonstrazione — Put your ideas to the test. Experiment. Push the envelope. Get into the habit of building things for the sake of it, or to prove or disprove your models and hunches. Whatever it is, just do it. And never let simulations have the last word. As da Vinci said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Sensazione — Get in touch with the world around you. Take a walk in the woods or along a beach or stream, noting the plant and animal life as well as the terrain. If you prefer to be indoors, a great way to activate your senses is to visit a museum, an historic workshop, or concert hall, or just hop on a bus or train (especially a steam locomotive) with little ones in tow. Most kids are highly in tune with their senses; observing them can help sharpen ours.
Another way to turn on your senses is to cook or bake something — without a recipe if you really want to get creative — and share it with friends or family. In everything, try to be more aware of the sounds, scents, colors, textures, and flavors in which life is wrapped. And remember what da Vinci said, “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”
Sfumato — Not everything fits nicely into an equation. Uncertainty and ambiguity are part of life; don't avoid it. On the contrary, learn to recognize and appreciate it, and get comfortable with the fact that no one has everything all figured out. Even da Vinci was aware of the limitations of his analytical mind. “Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?” he once mused. Sometimes we just need to lighten up.
Arte/scienze — Most schools don't address it, but engineers are artists and artists are engineers. To be more effective in life, we all need to work on balancing our imagination with our analytical skills. In a sense, the mind is an estuary where our knowledge of the firm gridwork of science meets and mingles with the flexible and unmarked material of our imagination. To master the diverse streams is to walk in the footsteps of da Vinci himself.
Corporalita — Remember what your mom told you: Eat your vegetables and drink your milk. Don't sit on the couch all day; turn off the TV and go outside and play. And be sure to get proper rest. It also wouldn't hurt to join a health club or take up a sport or some sort of activity. Life is an ongoing battle with the effects of time, and da Vinci put it best when he wrote, “It's easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”
Connessione — All is one, and one is all. Separateness exists only in time and space. “In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time,” da Vinci wrote. He also said, “I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”
I hope as you reflect on this series, you are inspired to become the best version of yourself that you can be.