Leonardo da Vinci would like a word with you

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"Imagine reaching a level of thought where a musty old file nobody's looked at for years, or even the process by which people get their coffee from the break room, start to truly intrigue you. There lies true contentment at work.

It's 2:14 on a gloomy Tuesday, and you've been staring at the computer screen for four straight hours. The remains of a sad olive loaf sandwich and a bag of Lays sit beside your elbow.

There's just no way to make this moment interesting, is there? The monotony of the job is simply something that must be slogged through, always clinging to the promise of 5 o'clock.

But Leonardo da Vinci would not have clicked around on that spreadsheet so meekly. By looking at the world in unusual ways, he made his surroundings fascinating and found the many challenges and wonders within them. 

Your job is such a wonder-filled place, whether you realize it right now or not.

In her recent webinar, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Lisa Olsen of Admin to Admin described the six creative prisms through which the great polymath saw the world, and in doing so, she emboldened attendees to become office visionaries:

Curiosita: A curious approach to life. As you go through your task list today, try challenging every single thing on it. Ask yourself what could be made more efficient. Consider how a process may have come about, and whether it's truly useful or just tradition. What might the process look like in 10 years?  How has the process been changed because of the subtle influence of the different people using it?

The day you stop asking questions at work is the day lethargy takes permanent hold.

Dimostrazione:  Testing the waters. Da Vinci was unafraid to step into the unknown armed with not much more than faith in a new idea. Few of us wade out into those waters at work for fear of the consequences, forgetting that exploration and risk-taking can be their own rewards.

Sfumato: Embracing change and paradox. There is one guarantee at work: Things will always keep moving, changing and even breaking down. Some of what we do will make perfect sense, but some of it will frustrate us because it just doesn't. 

That's OK. Because change is inevitable, forward thinkers embrace it when it happens and find a way to make it work. First though, they shed their fear of it. They know that if nothing changed this month at work, nothing grew—including us.

Arte/Scienza: Whole-brain thinking. Da Vinci excelled at connecting the dots among different processes and different goals. That takes a lot of learning—in our case, becoming familiar with the ways of departments that don't seem to intersect with ours, and speaking to employees whose jobs seem far removed.

There are subtle business connections to be made among all the shifting and weaving parts around you; you just need to step back and absorb a bigger picture. Free your mind to reach for those connections and it will start to work overtime to inspire solutions.

Corporalita: Cultivation of grace and poise. Da Vinci pursued the classical ideal of mens sana in corpora sano, a sound mind in a sound body. Think fitness, nutrition and movement. At some point in your life you've known what it's like to feel so well physically that even your brain seemed to be operating at a higher level, with heightened optimism, energy and fearlessness.

This is a work advantage you can feel again. And no matter what the outcome, the pursuit of that wellness will be satisfying on its own.

Connessione: Systems thinking. So many of us at work are plagued by a secret thought: "What difference do I make?" From sending emails, to attending meetings, to uploading that last-minute report to the network before some mysterious deadline strikes, are you able to see how it all contributes to the happiness of the company and the people who work for it?

Maybe not everything you do helps the bottom line—if so, do those secondary tasks have meaning for you? Can you take satisfaction from the most boring assignment because you like the co-workers who benefit from it, and you take pride in keeping the wheels moving reliably?

Find the meaning in your work today. If you can't, start asking questions, and don't stop. In no time, you'll be producing designs for a new flying machine, painting a prize-winning fresco, or simply standing before a whiteboard with marker in hand, ready to change the world.



4 questions to make you Leonardo da Vinci today

1. Imagine you had to start the company from scratch tomorrow. If you wanted to produce the same type of work, what one improvement would you make above all others?

2. How many objects in your personal workspace are there simply as an expression to others of who you are as a person? What exactly are these saying, and why?

3. How many days could your business last without anyone in the office speaking to one another, communicating only through emails and texts?  Where would the breakdown come first, and what does this say about the importance of that procedure?

4. Imagine no one at your company had a job title of any kind. What effect would this have? 

Free online resource: Download it now

When you think about leadership at high levels, you think about making big decisions, guiding teams, making brilliant presentations. But somewhere along the way, you've got to master the brutal art of protecting enough of your time to make it all happen. Those with precious few minutes to spare need to firmly establish boundaries that stave off time-wasting intrusions. Here's how to do it.  Download the guide

What's coming up next?

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Excel Pivot Tables: Getting Your Data to Talk - 7/6
Creating Videos in PowerPoint - 7/7

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