Want to be creative? Think like a genius!

Posted: February 26, 2012 by John Clarkin in Innovation, People, Planning, Startup

Last fall, my colleague Joe Carter published an article titles “There Really Are No New Ideas in the World.”  (Check it out at http://www.cincyentre.com) In it, he concluded that the ability to be creative is a learned process, and presented an overview of Murray’s “Six Steps to Business Innovation” as a process that can help spark new venture creation.  Joe’s article recognized that successful businesses are borne out of feasible opportunities, and that opportunities often begin life as ideas in the minds of creative entrepreneurs.  So, how do entrepreneurs think?

According to Michael Gerber, author of E-Myth Revisited, all great entrepreneurs are systems thinkers, ones who view their employees and associates as operators of the system.  Rhonda Abrams, author of Passion to Profits, says you have to think out of the box, think of change as something to embrace, and not to think of failure as failure.  While helpful, I would like to share some cues from a man whose genius is still respected worldwide 500 years after his death.

Like many of today’s entrepreneurs, Leonardo da Vinci came from humble beginnings.  He was the illegitimate son of a notary and a peasant girl, grew up in a small town, and employed as an apprentice in a workshop until he went out on his own.  The year was 1477, fifteen years before Columbus discovered America and more than 250 years before economist Richard Cantillon first use of the word entrepreneur.   Many viewed him as a misfit; working left-handed at a time when left-handedness was viewed as the devil’s work, and a strict vegetarian who would often buy caged animals at the market just to set them free. He was involved in so many different projects that he typically failed to finish what he had started and just went on to the next exciting endeavor.  Although he is best known for his art, Leonardo recorded his way of thinking in his meticulous notes, many of which are used today to help individuals and organizations innovate through creative thought.

In his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb presented seven steps to genius every day, all based on the writings of Leonardo.  I think these are valuable lessons for today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.  The first step in the process is curiosity (curiosita), an approach to thinking about life with insatiable curiosity and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning. The business boneyard is littered with companies started by smart people who began with a good idea, and then stopped learning at some point.

How does a person assess and improve their level of curiosita?  Do these statements describe you? True or false:

☐ My friends would describe me as open-minded & curious.

☐ I am always learning something new.

☐ I seek out new perspectives when facing an important decision.

☐ I take adequate time for reflection.

☐ I am a voracious reader.

☐ When I hear a new word, I always look it up.

☐ I solicit feedback from friends, relations & colleagues.

☐ I love learning.

☐ I am skilled at identifying and solving problems.

☐ I keep a journal to record insights and questions.

Your answers will reveal your present level of curiosity and some areas where there is room for improvement.  Want to be more creative and innovative? The first step of thinking like a genius begins with curiosity.

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