By Joe Byerly
When we hear the name Leonardo Da Vinci, the word “genius” immediately comes to mind. His 16th century works “The Last Supper,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Vitruvian Man” are still popular today. The Da Vinci namesake is a part of our modern pop culture as well: The Da Vinci Code dominated the New York Times best seller list, he’s been represented in cartoons, movies, and TV shows, and the episode of Epic Rap Battle about him has had more than 74 million views on YouTube. Most recently, in November 2017, one of Leonardo’s paintings broke a record, selling at auction for $450 million.
There is something, however, we should know about his genius: he wasn’t born with it or guided to it through schooling (he didn’t go to one) — he worked for it. And as Walter Isaacson argues in his latest biography, Leonardo da Vinci, his style of creativity is exportable, because we can all learn from and adopt one of his most important practices — keeping a notebook. Leonardo’s creativity and artistic abilities grew out his talent for making connections across disciplines. And it is within his notebooks where those connections were made.
So what can Leonardo’s notebooks teach us about creativity?