The other Da Vinci code: 5 mind hacks for creative brilliance

The world has yet to witness another Leonardo da Vinci. But what set him apart? What infused his mind with such boundless creativity, profound insight, and groundbreaking innovation? Let's find out.

The other Da Vinci code: 5 mind hacks for creative brilliance

Saturday December 09, 2023,

5 min Read

Google Trends tends to be flooded with workforce management buzzwords like– “continuous learning”, “brainstorming”, “mindset”, “whole-brain thinking”, “creativity”, “innovation”, “curiosity”, and so on. These might appear to be fresh concepts emerging in the digital era but guess what, their roots trace back five centuries to the insights and practices of none other than Leonardo Da Vinci.

A polymath of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci was hailed for his groundbreaking contributions across art, science, and engineering. Far beyond the accolades for his vast expertise in these fields, Da Vinci's complexity transcended mere qualifications. He was an autodidact, driven by an insatiable curiosity and innate creativity that propelled him to reach extraordinary lengths, reshaping the way the world perceived life itself.

In the book, Leonardo’s Brain by Leonard Shlain, the author, inventor, and surgeon stated that da Vinci's unique state of consciousness stemmed from his adeptness in “accessing different ways of thinking,”—a level beyond the grasp of ordinary individuals.

The world has yet to witness another Leonardo da Vinci; this raises the question: what set him apart? What infused his mind with such boundless creativity, profound insight, and groundbreaking innovation? The answer lies in his distinctive mindset—a mental framework that can be adapted by anyone at any given time.

Michael Gelb, an expert in teaching innovation, drew inspiration from Leonardo's meticulously crafted extensive notebooks for his book How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

So, are you thinking that only one person on this earth can possess such an extraordinarily designed intricate mindset? Nope; we all can!

The following five techniques are designed to liberate individuals from conventional thinking patterns, offering a fertile ground for unique ideas and unconventional perspectives, regardless of their professional domain. Read along!

Leonardo da Vinci

‘Curiosità’: Foster an unquenchable thirst for learning 

At the core of learning resides curiosity. In an AI-driven era, the fusion of our existing knowledge with emerging insights becomes crucial for thriving.

Here are some tips to keep up with the dynamicity:

1. Keep a journal.

2. Engage in continuous learning.

3. Pose questions and actively seek answers.

4. Pause and reflect. Learning = Experience + Reflection.

While children naturally brim with curiosity, this eagerness often wanes with maturity. Gelb identifies this trait in organisational settings, which indicates whether a spirit of curiosity prevails or if individuals exhibit a know-it-all mindset.

Contrarily, geniuses like da Vinci sustain an insatiable curiosity throughout life. He recognised that curiosity isn't merely a passing interest; it embodies a way of life, guiding us to endless exploration and understanding.

Sfumato: Engage in unconventional associations

Creativity and unconventional elements are woven into the same thread. To traverse this space, we must delve into forging unconventional connections. 

Poet and theologian John O’Donohue, in his book Beauty, advocates pairing paradoxical concepts as a means to articulate the incomprehensible–

“Words like ‘nearness,’ ‘intimacy’ or ‘love’ still indicate separation. Only the strained language of paradox can suggest the breathtaking surprise of divine closeness. God is breath-near, skin-touch, mind-home…”

While O’Donohue’s context stems from theology, his insights co-relate creativity and innovative thinking.

‘Corporalità’: Build a harmony between body and mind

Leonardo's expertise extended beyond the canvas; he was an extraordinary athlete, renowned as the strongest man in Florence, skilled in fencing, and a masterful horseman.

"We think of creativity as an intellectual exercise, but it requires tremendous energy. Learning to cultivate your life force, your life energy, is a very important part of this," emphasises Gelb.

A sound mind thrives in a healthy body. Physical well-being stands as the pillar of all our pursuits, nurturing creativity. The habit of practising fitness mirrors the equilibrium sought within the mind. Each of us must strive to harmonise our body and mind, recognising that our choices significantly impact our overall well-being.

In the world of business, building healthier organisational structures becomes synonymous with enhancing innovation capabilities. A healthy workplace = an innovative workplace.

‘Sensazione’: Heighten your senses

It is said that artists have a third eye. Now, what does this third eye refer to? While philosophies and mythologies have multifarious theories to substantiate this, artists believe that ones wishing to practise creativity should use all their senses. For instance, when you’re listening to something, try to draw a picture of it in your mind, and try to see it with your invisible eye.

In business, this translates to attentive listening and keen observation—simple advice challenging to heed in today's distractible environment. 

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But when everything is at rest, your senses should also dwell in complete rest.

"The Italians have la dolce vita, the sweet, soulful life. The French have joie de vivre, the joy of living. And in the States, all we have is happy hour," Gelb states.

Essentially, Gelb underscores the significance of mindfulness—attentiveness to the present moment. This practice not only fosters creativity but also serves as the cornerstone of enjoying life to its fullest.

Make use of metaphors

Beyond visual artistry, da Vinci used to perceive the "negative space," those pivotal yet often overlooked elements in a situation.

Utilising metaphor and metaphoric images allows for the expression of abstract concepts. Metaphors connect us to our intuitive capacities, creating space for depth and breakthroughs. Unlike literal words, metaphoric imagery allows for a more profound exploration.

To put it simply, metaphors give wings to your creativity. 

Producing a multitude of ideas triggers the associative mechanisms in your mind. Even if the breakthrough doesn't happen immediately, it often arrives unexpectedly—perhaps at 4 a.m., during a drive, or amid a shower. When it does emerge, jot it down immediately. Leonardo da Vinci religiously followed this step, you should too!

Unleash the genius within you! Embrace curiosity, forge unconventional connections, harmonise body and mind, heighten your senses, and let metaphors ignite your creativity. Your journey to brilliance begins now.