CL #13 – What Can You Learn From Leonardo Da Vinci’s Innovative Life?

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Engineers are well known for their intense level of attention to detail.

We often go to great lengths to analyze every design aspect, to over-analyze and scrutinize every concept element. But is this always a bad thing? The answer is a complex one.

Recognizing when too much detail is unnecessary and vital for a project's success is essential. I find it curious that Leonardo Da Vinci had similar struggles over 500 years ago. To learn more about one of the greatest innovators of all time, I have been reading Walter Isaacson's comprehensive biography of his life.

Not only is Da Vinci's life full of fascinating stories and experiences, but Isaacson is an excellent biographer. His book describes the many aspects of Da Vinci's life. From his innovative inventions to his prolific artwork, Isaacson paints a vivid picture of the life of the great genius. 

What can we learn from Da Vinci?

Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Leonardo Da Vinci was known for his creative ideas and unique ways of solving problems. His problem-solving is full of wisdom, from his precise drawings of anatomy and machines to his deep thoughts and observations.

As engineers, we can gain a lot from Da Vinci's innovative way of recording information. His notebooks show us the importance of paying attention to details and having an organized way to solve problems. Through careful attention and writing, Da Vinci created inventions and discoveries that changed the course of history.

He wrote down his observations carefully to analyze them and spot connections and ideas that other methods might have missed. This way of understanding things and creating new ideas can be used by engineers now. Like Da Vinci, engineers can think of novel solutions to problems using this method.

While Da Vinci was great, he was also obsessed with perfection. There are numerous accounts of his unfinished work. These happened when he either lost interest in his work or became obsessed with perfection to produce a perfect piece of art or machinery.

I have taken a closer look at how I navigate my work and life. I tend to ask these two questions to spark more creativity:

  • Am I curious enough about the little things?
  • What can we learn from this? Am I nurturing curiosity and reflecting on paper?

Not only in finding that curious mindset but also in staying on track with projects. It is easy to optimize a design, but at what point is the procedure done? Sometimes yes. We need to learn the balance between done and perfect.

Studying the great innovators from previous generations allows us to think differently and approach problems from different angles, giving us the leverage to produce higher-quality work.

Here are five things engineers can learn from the Renaissance genius:

  1. Think outside the box – Da Vinci was a master of creative problem-solving; he looked at a problem from multiple angles and devised innovative solutions.
  2. Have an open mind – Da Vinci was always available to new ideas and willing to explore different paths. He often combined ideas from various fields and used them to create new inventions.
  3. Embrace failure – Da Vinci’s inventions often failed, but he never gave up. He was willing to take risks and learn from his mistakes.
  4. Document your work – Da Vinci was a prolific documenter of his work. He kept detailed notes and drawings of his experiments and inventions.
  5. Have a passion for learning – Da Vinci was an avid learner and always looked for ways to expand his knowledge. He read widely and experimented with a variety of materials and techniques.

These five lessons are just a glimpse of the wisdom we can learn from Leonardo Da Vinci. His legacy continues to inspire engineers and inventors to this day. 

I hope this sparked some thoughts on how to approach work.

Action Item

Grab a notebook and document what you are curious about this week. This can be birds like Da Vinci did as he was thinking about flying devices or how muscles reacted to movement when he was trying to perfect his paintings.

It’s up to you! Reach out on Linkedin or Twitter and tell me how it went.

See you again next week…

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