Genius everyday

Posted by  Robyn —August 23, 2007
Filed in Insight

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for something entertaining to read on a long plane journey. I’m a fast reader and easily bored so the usual fare at airports barely lasts until I am flying over the West Australian coast. That leaves about another 20 hours of flying time to fill. So wandering past the Socrates store in Eastland last Sunday afternoon the cover on this book in the window display caught my eye. After a quick browse through the pages I decided I had found my travel companion.

I don’t mind admitting I am an absolute Leonardo-phile. And I am not deluding myself into thinking any book can turn me into a Da Vinci equivalent. Since I took up scrapbooking in earnest in 2002 I have expanded my creative endeavours into book-making and mixed media art. But I have been continually frustrated by that little voice that tells me I can’t draw and and I can’t paint. I know when I was teaching, I never met a prep class child who could not draw, paint, sing or dance. Seek out a four or five year old of your acquaintance and ask them. Not only can they do it but they are more than willing to demonstrate it to you right there and then. And look at you oddly for asking such a silly question.

No, this is more about studying Da Vinci and learning from his work in order to utilise our potential to the best of our ability. And Leonardo’s 500 year old techniques still work. Finding metaphors in nature was one of his favourites. Velcro was invented by someone who took a close look at a burr hooked to his trousers after a walk outdoors. The ease with which you can “open” a banana inspired the inventors of the ring pull tab on aluminum cans.

The book is centred around the seven fundamental principles (named in Italian) that Michael Gelb has drawn from his study of the man and his work. I’m struck by how they reflect much of what we at Anecdote believe and do.

  1. Curiosita – an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning
  2. Dimonstrazione – a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence and a willingness to learn from mistakes
  3. Sensazione- the continual refinement of the senses as the means to enliven experience
  4. Sfumato (literally “going up in smoke”) – a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty
  5. Arte/Scienza – – the development of balance between science and art, logic and imagination. Whole-brain thinking
  6. Corporalita – the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise
  7. Connessione – a recognition and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.

Leonardo had the ability to see and live with paradox. Relentless hard work was not the solution. Taking time with a problem, sleeping on it and letting the solution incubate gave better results. As Michael Gelb points out – the ability to trust your gut when dealing with ambiguity is still critical even in the age of information overload.

I’m looking forward to reading more about these principles and the examples that Gelb provides, following along with, and doing the activities. I may even return from my holiday able to draw.

About  Robyn


  1. Daryl says:

    My Year 8 science teacher was ‘obsessed’ with Da Vinci. He often used examples of his ingenuity a innovative thinking to illustrate a point, and I think to try and inspire us insipid students. I didn’t get it then. Mr Forbes, by chance you read this — I understand now!

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