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The Leonardo da Vinci Guide to Business (Part 1: Be Curious!)

August 20, 2009
Leonardo da Vinci, world's greatest entrepreneur!

Leonardo da Vinci, the world's greatest entrepreneur!

We all know curiosity killed the cat, but when it comes to running a (successful) business, it pays big time to model yourself after a genius like Leonardo da Vinci (one of the most curious people…like, ever).

And okay — Leonardo is dead.  So he won’t be sharing his pearls of wisdom with you personally. But he’s been ranked the #1 genius of all time.  

And in my opinion, Leo was the ultimate entrepreneur: innovative, intelligent and passionate about the world around him.

So here’s my question: What if we all committed to running our businesses the way he lived? I’d bet good money that the planet would be thriving in ways we can’t even (yet) imagine!

Inspired by my own question, I offer up this first in a 10-part series on using Leonardo’s life as a guide to running a business.

Where to start?  How about with our products and/or services?  You know that stuff that business uses to make money?

We all have products (even our services are actually products).  And new stuff is a direct result of innovation.

But HOW do we innovate?  How did Leo innovate? By being insatiably curious.

How curious are you?  How many ways of looking at something do you have patience for? When someone makes an assertion, do you accept it as the final word? Or do you dig for additional opinions and facts?

In order to nurture your curious side, keep a small journal handy to record insights and questions throughout your day.

Leonardo carried a notebook with him at all times so he could jot down ideas, impressions, and observations as they happened.  And then he used those notes and scribbles (mostly questions) to create new inventions and explore even wilder and weirder things.

If you don’t know where to start, give yourself this assignment: Write down 100 questions that are important to you. It could be something like, “How can I create more revenue for my business?” or even “How can I have more fun with my customers?”  But do the entire list in one sitting.  Michael Gelb (author of “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”) says if you do it this way you’ll get some really meaty questions toward the end.

When you’re done, highlight the themes and significant questions that come up for you.  And then rank them in order of importance.

And then, (if you want to really give your brain something to work on) post the questions up in your office where you’ll see them over and over.  Your subconscious mind can’t help but try to find you an answer (or two or three!).

Next, continue the process by getting to better questions. And by that I mean off-the-wall, pie-in-the-sky, big-hairy and itty-bitty questions.

I know it’s been awhile since your day was filled with nothing but questions.  If you’ve ever been a parent, you know that little children (especially those who have just learned how to talk), are consumed with questions.  About how things work, why they are the way they are, where things come from (babies anyone?) and so on.

You need to get yourself back into this mode by practicing the Art of 20 Questions.  Remember that game?  Only this time, Play against yourself.

Go ahead think of something that’s been challenging you and your business right now.  I’ll wait.

Got it?  Now start asking questions about that thing.  Ask What? Who? When? Where? How? and Why?  What are the underlying issues?  Preconceptions? Prejudices? Paradigms?  What will happen if you ignore this thing? Love it? When did it start? When doesn’t it happen?

Get the picture?  And yes, this is going to take some time.  So figure out what part of your day you can set aside to practice this stuff.  At least for 3 weeks (until it becomes a habit).  Pretty soon, you’ll be doing it all day long.

Are you curious about the next installment of this blog series?  (Hint: It’s about answers).

For now, I’d really love to hear your questions…post one or two to share with the rest of us, would ‘ya?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Molly.R permalink
    August 20, 2009 5:03 pm

    I know what you mean, curiosity with people around you, curiosity about the world makes the big difference.

    A movie named “The YES Movie” told stories about today’s young entrepreneurs and how they spot overlooked opportunities.

    http://www.TheYESmovie.com(by Louis Lautman)

  2. August 20, 2009 6:16 pm

    Love this post! Especially the question “How can I have more fun with my customers?” What a marvelous way to re-invent your business.

  3. August 20, 2009 6:30 pm

    Some people don’t enjoy writing enough to stick with 100 questions. A good suggestion would be to use one of those programs that writes what you say. I understand they’re available now, and they’re not expensive. Then a person could just talk a brainstorm of questions and see them on the screen.

  4. August 20, 2009 7:36 pm

    How can I be financially successful by giving my deepest gifts to the world? How do I choose which ideas to focus on?

    Those are mine for the day Tea, thanks for the post! I loved the book on how to think like Leonardo :). My biggest strength is curiosity, my mind never stops asking questions and seeing new angles of things. My questions is less how to be more curious but more how to narrow that down!

  5. August 26, 2009 12:57 am

    100 questions ! sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t nearly enough. You always have the best ideas to stimulate business growth. What do you think Leonardo would say about Facebook?

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