“Talent hits a target that no one else can hit. Genius hits target no one else can see”
I recently read the autobiography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. The book was magnificient read and made me appreciate Leonardo even more (as a painter and as an inventor). He was able to achieve so much (majority of it not truly understood and appreciated when he was alive) in many different fields despite leaving quite a lot of things unfinished. Although it is unlikely that none of us reading (or writing) this blog will paint the most heralded painting in the world, there are still plenty of lessons we can take from Leonardo da Vinci and instil in our professional and everyday life:
- Have childlike sense of wonder
Why sky is blue?
How are clouds formed?
What is yawning?
These were just a few questions on Leonardo´s notebook. If you keep on questioning on things that others might take for granted you will get closer to the truth.
So as a marketing professionals, we need to always challenge the preconceived notions. We cannot be afraid to ask questions that everyone is thinking but no one dares to ask.
- Observe the world around you
As part of his curiosity, Leonardo spent hours and hours observing the world around him. This was connected to his maniacal list taking and notebooks filled from top to bottom and left to right with scribbling about his observations. He had his intense observation skills from his childhood to his last days. It was probably connected that he was not school educated but instead learned by observing and analysing those observations.
Working in marketing means being customer-centric. We need to obsessively observe our consumers and how they act and make decisions in this world.
- Experiment with open mind
“Vision without execution is hallucination. Skill without imagination is barren”
Leonardo da Vinci opened up over 30 bodies to learn more about anatomy. He tested rigorously his hypotheses about different subjects and was also willing to change his preconceived notions when he had different test results or received new information.
Marketing is not science that you can only theorize. It is about active doing and eventually you need to get your hands dirty and start shipping. We need to be also ready to change our approach if results shows so. We should be in state of constant experimentation and improvement.
- Find analogies and patterns among different disciplines
Leonard da Vinci was self-learned and despite being a true renaissance man, he was not particularly good in all fields. He struggled with algebra and languages. To learn and understand better different fields, he used analogies to make them more easily understandable for other people and to himself as well. He was brilliant at discerning patterns and abstracting from them a framework that could be applied across disciplines.
As marketing professionals we have to rise above jargon and find easily understandable ways to explain what we are doing and connect it to things that audience cares about (working hypothesis being here that majority of people are not caring about what we do). As marketing communications has become highly fragmented and specialized, we need to force ourselves to actively learn from other fields and keep our renaissance mentality. Different disciplines feed and support each other. Leonardo excelled at painting, but his detours to maths, physics, biology and weapon design made him a better painter.
- Procrastinate with peace of mind
“Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work the least”
– Leonardo da Vinci
For majority of us, this comes quite naturally. However procrastination is not synonym for being lazy. When you’re not actively working on that difficult/daunting task, your mind is actually subconsciously collecting ideas and processing things to prepare you for it.
The most astounding revelation in Isaacson´s book is how much Leonardo left loose ends and unfinished projects behind. One part of it was that his curiosity led him to rabbit holes and as a true renaissance man, he suddenly might be interested in totally different subject. Other part of procrastination was his perfectionism. He carried Mona Lisa with him over 16 years and improved it slowly. He might look at this paintings for hours and then add one brush stroke.
If world´s most greatest artist and scientist was prone to procrastinate, we should not feel bad if we are delaying the start of our latest presentation.
Trust me, it will be better for it.