‘‘Everything comes from everything, and everything is made out of everything, and everything returns into everything.’’ — Leonardo Da Vinci
Often times there will be a word that gets lodged in my mind and makes its unwarranted existence felt at the least opportune moments. I have learnt to embrace it and like a sip of good whisky, I roll it around on my tongue and in my head, and indulge all my senses. The word, off late, is Italian – “Connessione”.
I heard in the transit lounge during an international flight, probably calling out to passengers taking a connecting flight. Little did I understand of what was said, but that word now swims in my head. I dwell deeper and learn everything there is to learn of this lovely Italian word meaning connection and the deeper I dig I find it connects right back to Leonardo Da Vinci, the painter architect, engineer and sculptor, who incidentally has been on my mind as well!!
Connessione is one of the 7 principles of Leonardo Da Vinci, a man whose creative genius was well ahead of his times. Da Vinci, the quintessential renaissance man and polymath, was a man of many interests. Everything caught his fancy (and he, mine!) Curiosity, clarity, compassion, choice, and courage were only some of his personality traits. Drawing on Da Vinci’s notebooks, inventions, and legendary works of art, Micheal Gelb’s classic book “ How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci” introduces Seven Da Vincian Principles—the essential elements of genius. If you haven’t read it as yet, it is time to pick it up right now! Gelb’s book is a handbook for everyday genius. It not only gives you insights to Leonardo Da Vinci’s mind and works but also breaks it down to give you practical pointers on exhilarating new ways to think, new ways to solve problems and think creatively. Da Vinci’s 7 principles, as Gleb notes are:
1)Curiosita: An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.
2)Dimostrazione: A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and willingness to learn from mistakes.
3)Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.
4)Sfumato: A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.
5)Arte/Scienza: The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking.
6)Corporalita: The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
7)Connessione: A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking.
Da Vinci realised everything in this world was connected. He writes in one of his note books “Learn how to see, realize that everything connects to everything else” Through his detailed studies of objects and concepts that caught his curiosity and attention, Leonardo found that in order to understand something, you had to look at is as part of a larger system and look for the connections that exist everywhere, but may be elusive to the untrained mind. He studied how water vapour rises from the earth to the air sand the parallels in flowing water. He observed how bones and muscles form and their relationship to movement in humans and animals. He constantly looked for similarities and contrasts. He sketched grotesque people and forms so that he could understand the concept of ugliness knowing that this will help him understand beauty. He connected what he saw and experienced with his own values and beliefs. He combined and connected disparate patterns to make new patterns.
Today so much has been studied about interconnectedness and talk to anyone about interconnectedness and the first observation that comes up is that of the butterfly flapping its wings in Tokyo, and causing a hurricane on the other side of the world. But five centuries before this much theorized observation, Da Vinci wrote “The earth is moved from its position by the weight of a tiny bird resting upon it.”
I learn that understanding this complex yet magnificent web of connections isn’t just something for the mind of a genius. Although it is hard to overstate Leonardo Da Vinci’s brilliance, recent scientific research reveals that most of us probably underestimate your own capabilities. We are gifted with virtually unlimited personal potential for learning and creativity. All we have to do, genius or not, is to open our minds to interconnectedness and the possibilities open themselves.
In order to understand and begin exploring the web of connections around us we must first begin with curiosity and gradually strive towards clarity. Contemplate the concept of wholeness. Write down in your notebook your concept of wholeness. What, precisely, does it mean to you? How can it be expressed most accurately? What is its opposite? What about conflicts that may occur? Expand these concepts to your work place. Study the dynamics of your organization. Sift through the external and internal factors that affect your organization. Explore scenarios and play around with these factors to contemplate its effect on your organization. Try drawing a diagram that represents the entire organization from different perspectives. Use the metaphor of a human body. How does that help you gain some insights into the dynamics at work in the system?
Excising the mind to map connections can soon develop into a habit that fosters interdisciplinary and multi- dimensional thinking. It will help you understand that all actions, patterns and relationships are part of the totality that envelopes the human race and equip you with insights that make you better at decision making and mindfulness.