Shape the Future Series: Leonardo Da Vinci | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
Shape the Future Series: Leonardo Da Vinci

Shape the Future Series: Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

In our previous Shape the Future post we outlined the attitude of Conceptual Ability and profiled Charlie Munger, who for us, embodies what it is to have Conceptual Ability. In this post we look at the attitude of Being Knowledgeable which forms part of the Learning mindset under the pillar of Achievement Excellence.

At the Foundation we define Being Knowledgeable as actively extending your existing frontiers of a wide range of topics as well as deepening your expertise on your particular focus area.

Earlier this year Cape Town hosted the Da Vinci Exhibition. What was interesting about this exhibition is that not a single piece of Da Vinci’s original famous artworks was on display, and yet an entire exhibition was put together based solely on the non art body of work he amassed during his lifetime.

Da Vinci was one of the most knowledgeable men of his time. He started off as an apprentice to the artist, Andrea del Verrocchio. He became the quintessential polymath or Renaissance Man who had an unquenchable curiosity. He was a skilled painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. His body of work includes architecture, sculptors, engineering models, scientific drawings and interesting inventions at various stages of development. Da Vinci also was a keen anatomist and painstakingly documented (through hand drawn sketches) the intricate structures of the human anatomy.

Recording his thoughts, life and travels (in great detail) in more than 13 000 pages of notes and drawings, Da Vinci was one of the most prolific journal keepers. His journals showcased an enormous and ever-increasing range of interests and preoccupations and his knowledge base allowed him to make connections which were not very obvious to thinkers of the time. He incorporated mathematics into his artworks such as The Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper.

So what five things can entrepreneurs (and future entrepreneurs) learn from Da Vinci?

  1. Increasing your knowledge (Intellectual Imagination) is key. You increase your chances of spotting an opportunity if you increase your awareness of what exists in the world around you.
  2. The devil is in the detail. Sometimes it’s the smallest of details that could end up derailing the implementation of our ideas. And by having an ever-increasing knowledge-base you can spot those details and know how to solve the challenges they might bring.
  3. Record your ideas. Sometimes inspiration hits us at the strangest of times and we need to be able to capture those ideas at that moment when we are struck by (that sometimes fleeting muse) inspiration.
  4. Mentoring is key. Da Vinci started his career as an apprentice, learning from someone else who had already achieved mastery in the particular skill set he was hoping to master.
  5. We must do! Leonard himself sums it up best, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

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