A Key to Being Creative Like Leonardo da Vinci

What is the key to being creative? What is the factor behind it?

I believe that the answer to this question is important. After all, being creative is essential in this age of automation. More and more routine tasks are being automated, so your creativity can make the difference between thriving and sinking.

I already wrote about creativity before (here is one), but this time I’d like to take a different view. I’d like to focus on what I believe is a key factor to being creative: diversity.

Diversity is about the different perspectives that you have in your arsenal. It’s about having a toolbox instead of just a hammer. The more tools you have, the more likely it is that you come up with something new.

Why is diversity important? Because diversity enables the cross-pollination of ideas. Ideas from different fields can interact and combine into something unexpected. You will then have a unique insight into a situation.

The opposite is tunnel vision where you have only one lens to look through. As a result, the same ideas get reinforced again and again. Using the terms in Think Again, you may then end up in an overconfident cycle. Diversity, on the other hand, helps you enter a rethinking cycle because you can see an idea in a new light.

I remember that the university where I got my master’s degree had a policy not to recruit professors from its own graduates. It was surprising to me at first, but then I understood that it helped the university stayed innovative. Instead of recycling the same ideas again and again, the new people can bring fresh ideas into the mix.

A great example of diversity is Leonardo da Vinci. Here is an excerpt from his biography by Walter Isaacson:

Around the time that he reached the unnerving milestone of turning thirty, Leonardo da Vinci wrote a letter to the ruler of Milan listing the reasons he should be given a job… In the first ten paragraphs, he touted his engineering skills, including his ability to design bridges, waterways, cannons… Only in the eleventh paragraph, at the end, did he add that he was also an artist. “Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible”.

I love this example from da Vinci’s life. Here he was trying to get a job as a painter, but he spent no less than ten paragraphs talking about his other accomplishments! Only in the last paragraph did he mention that he can also paint.

Needless to say, da Vinci is one of the greatest painters of all time. But it’s clear that he never viewed himself only as a painter. On the contrary, he believed that his other accomplishments were also important for his overall success. His breadth of interests and imagination made him the creative man he was.

Here is a good quote from Originals:

The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.

Diversity helps you become an original. You won’t just accept the default. Why? Because you know that there might be a better option out there. You will then explore the vast area of possibilities and find it.


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  1. Abiodun Macarthy
    Abiodun Macarthy

    This is mind blowing..Diversity makes one exceptional..It’s gives you edge and in exploring it you have to be open minded .Great write up Donald!!!

  2. Donald. It all depends on what ones’ desires are in life. A person’s desires directs him or her the steps to take.

    Please note too many people love the comfort zone/pit or call it complacency. But we all know that necessity is the master of all inventions.

    There my my polite answer to your question [What is the key to being creative? What is the factor behind it?]. It is DESIRE and NECCESSITY. These are the keys.

    Peace + Love!

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