How Leonardo translates for the active manager of today

What if Leonardo Da Vinci had come up with a consultant-like list: traits of good managers?

In his book, "How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci," Michael J. Gelb enumerates what he calls the seven Da Vincian principles listed below, which he has drawn from his own study of Da Vinci's life work. We asked Doug Macnamara, general manager of the Banff Centre for Management, to explain how these principles can be applied in the workplace.

Curiosit An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning. This is the attitude of lifelong learning, of "purposefully putting time aside to learn something new," says Mr. Macnamara. This spring, for instance, he took his family to Greece. "It was important to connect with the early part of our civilization," he says, adding that this visit helped him see his work in connection with this larger cultural context.

Dimostrazione A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. Macnamara notes that corporate fast-trackers are often moved so fast that "we don't really know whether they're any good." He recommends that fast-trackers be left in place for a couple of years, so that they get feedback from the first fiscal year, and respond in the second.

Sensazione The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience. From his work with peak corporate performers, Macnamara has seen how hard they work in meetings: "They're really observing the body language; who's sitting where.... They just seem to soak up what's happening," he says.

Sfumato A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty. Macnamara says trend forecasting often involves straight-line projections and incremental changes to the status quo. He says it is smarter to look at the "paradoxes that move toward discontinuities."

Instead of trying to make a product more efficiently, a company might want to make a whole new kind of product.

Arte/Scienza The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. "Whole-brain" thinking. Peak performers "all seem to have an interest in the arts. They're cultured people - whether it's the ballet, or the symphony."

Corporalit The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise. Macnamara chuckles, "This is the one I will personally work on." He notes that in the presence of leaders who have this one mastered, "everything is calm. These people have poise, grace. You get their full attention."

Connessione A recognition of and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Systems thinking. Macnamara has found his own background in biochemistry useful in seeing connections and different layers of a corporate interaction.

Interpersonal conflict between two people, for instance, may be the result of poorly defined roles within the organization - or of conflicting worldviews. "It doesn't mean they're bad people. But they may have different worldviews - the aboriginal worldview is different from the nonaboriginal, for instance."

His advice: "Make sure you're looking at the right layer."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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