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Da Vinci's To Do List: Inside the Mind of a Genius

Knowing How To Utilize Experts

Leonardo Da Vinci didn't do everything on his own, making good use of experts and other people who could do the work more efficiently.

He acknowledged that he didn't know everything and utilized the knowledge and experience of other great minds.


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Da Vinci's To Do List: Inside the Mind of a Genius

Da Vinci's To Do List: Inside the Mind of a Genius


Key Ideas

The Renaissance Man

Leonardo Da Vinci had a seemingly endless assemblage of concepts and ideas, all of which were unrelated, and scattered.

The 'Renaissance Man' followed his curiosity and not his specialization.

Don't Focus on One Thing

Leonardo Da Vinci explored a wide range of subjects.

A mind interested in many things unlocks certain creative aspects and forms connections that otherwise would remain dormant.



First Principle Thinking In Practice

The CEO might re-envision the way his company tackles development, by bringing in other departments that don't normally get to participate in this work, and creating incentives for original thinkin...

4 Steps For First Principle Thinking
  1. Identify the problem you want to solve.
  2. List all the reasons you can't solve this problem.
  3. List all obvious solutions that apply but don't solve the problem adequately.
  4. Ask yourself: "If I could create a solution based on my desires, what would that solution be?"
Achieving Groundbreaking Innovation through First Principle Thinking

It may seem that practicing First Principle Thinking requires more mental energy and intellectual rigor, but it simply requires a different type of thinking and intellectual rigor. 

By definition, true innovation only occurs if we start with the First Principle. To make the leap from the impossible to the possible, we can't just iterate on what already exists.

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Polymaths, geniuses with diverse skillsets and varied interests, are the source of some of history's greatest contributions.

Giants like Aristotle, Galileo, and Leonardo da Vinci were...

The Approach Of A Polymath

A polymath sees the world with a unique perspective, making connections that are not apparent to others.

Early polymaths had the advantage of a wide-open field, and went deep in their disciplines, yielding branches and sub-branches of specializations. Deep down, these different branches lead to the same trunk and roots.

Polymaths Vs Specialists

Polymaths differ from specialists, as they are on to a highway that is getting wider, and specialists are parked in a spot that is getting deeper.

Polymaths have the advantage of learning new fields of study, and forming new connections, while specialists start having a narrow vision by going deep, learning less. The learning ability of the polymath is the required skill-set of the future.

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Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...

As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

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