This year marks the 500th year of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most brilliant critical and creative thinkers in human history.
I’ve been a follower of da Vinci for years, read several books about him, incorporated his critical thinking skills into my consulting work, and facilitated a number of workshops to teach people about his creative thinking techniques. One of my favorite da Vinci books is How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci – Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael J. Gelb, a world-renowned innovator in fields of creative thinking, accelerated learning, and leadership development.
In my last blog, I wrote about the skill of asking questions, of which da Vinci was a master. He also nurtured his ability to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty, which we increasingly face in work and life. As change accelerates, ask yourself:
- How do I develop a high tolerance for uncertainty?
- How do I thrive with ambiguity?
- How do I remain emotionally and mentally stable in the face of paradox?
Michael Gelb proposes to cultivate “confusion endurance,” which sharpens our senses in the face of paradox. Here are a few paradoxes and questions for your contemplation (adapted from How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci – Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, pp. 154-155).
Joy and Sorrow. Think of the most joyful moments of your life, and those filled with sadness.
- What is the relationship between these states?
- Do you ever feel joy and sorrow simultaneously?
Strength and Weakness. List three of your strengths and weaknesses as a person. How are the qualities related?
Change and Constancy. Note three of the most significant changes you have observed in your lifetime. Note three things that remain constant. Is the idea that “the more things change, the more they remain the same” true or false in your experience?
The purpose of your contemplation is to assess to what degree you are comfortable with paradox, have the ability to recognize the irony in it, and can embrace paradox rather than resist it.
I end this blog with a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that sums up his life.
“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
Contact me to explore how da Vinci’s critical and creative thinking skills can be applied at your workplace.