“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned
skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
Leonardo da Vinci
What does the history of great design leadership teach us about visionary thinking?
For one, we have learned from the greatest innovators on our planet that they dreamed the unimaginable way ahead of their time. They boldly envisioned things to come in the future and started to conduct experiments others may have ridiculed or even suppressed.
So, how can innovation drive any form of design or art, policy or system to new heights?
What is your great vision?
One way to start is to identify a great vision. Zaha Hadid, one of the leading contemporary architects named “Queen of the curve” by The Guardian famously stated: “You really have to have a goal. The goal posts might shift, but you should have a goal. Know what it is you want to find out.”
What did Leonardo da Vinci want to find out? The legendary Renaissance artist is best known for the Mona Lisa and one of the first generation of painters to employ ‘central perspective’ in their work. Da Vinci had an insatiable curiosity about the mechanics of the world that surrounded him. Unbounded systems thinking led him to fill 15,000 pages with his notes, ideas, and concepts that took several hundred years and the ambition of countless yet unborn designers to realize. Most notable among da Vinci’s dreams was the machine that would fly, first generated by the Icarus myth from classical Greek antiquity.
What is the take-away for today’s thought leader? The mental image of human flight took more than two millennia until it was finally realized by the Wright brothers in the early 1900s, who themselves revisited da Vinci’s initial designs. Da Vinci and many other inventors and designers developed countless ideas. Many of them continue to linger in the digital realm as well as in archives and libraries, ready to be unearthed to help inspire and inform the next great invention.
Innovation and design
Cutting-edge business practices have been looking towards the field of design for discourse on creative professional practices. While skillsets and specializations were increasingly compartmentalized during the industrial revolution and much of the twentieth century, internationally leading business leaders and schools today promote more holistic, cross-disciplinary dialog and collaboration.
At its core design brings together rational thinking and creativity to create solutions that fulfill a need and inspire an emotional response in people. It is little wonder that much modern innovation is delivered with the help of design processes and thinking.