The Renaissance Man and Woman:  
How to come up with new ideas in a world where everything seems to have been done (500 words) 


Leonardo da Vinci was a painter,  a scientist, and an engineer. Michelangelo was a sculptor, an architect, and a poet. Here’s how you can become like da Vinci and Michelangelo. 

#1 Be Good at More than One Thing 

Being good at more than one makes it easier to be be great at all of them. This is due to the power of analogical thinking - what you do when you use information from one problem to solve another. It gives you an approach you may not have have considered. You can pull knowledge from one area and apply it to another to be innovate and find solutions. It pays to have disparate fields of interest. The more different they are, the more likely you will create something new by transferring ideas between them.  

#2 Take Time Off 

A secret to coming up with new ideas is on-and-off thinking. This is putting down one project to work on another. Creative breakthroughs happen when we let go of focusing on a problem, take a break, and re-charge. The brain momentarily returns to a feeling of excitement and being alive.  

After being fired from Apple, Steve Jobs was re-hired and returned to turn the company around. We forget that in the interim he started Next, a minicomputer that appeared to be a flop. It was expensive and few applications ran on it.  The only thing it seemed to be useful for was animations and its main user became Pixar. When Jobs retuned to Apple, the company was in such poor financial state that as its new CEO, Jobs didn’t take a salary. He didn’t need the money. He became a billionaire when Pixar was acquired by Disney.    

#3 Borrow from Others   

Research suggests that older prototypes existed for more than one-hundred of the inventions that have been credited to Leonardo di Vinci. Similarities are said to exist between his illustrations and those from the Middle Ages, ancient Greece, Rome, the Persian Empire, and Egypt. Leonardo´s innovation was to combine different functions from existing ideas. By reconstituting existing inventions he created something new. 


If you want come up with new ideas, strive to become  like a Renaissance Man/Woman. Be good at more than one thing. Practice the guitar or go into the shop or your art studio when you get home. Write a song, a poem, or a novel. Take a dance class. Bake something. When you find yourself stuck, take a break, give the project a rest, and go work on something different. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to borrow from others. Few invent something completely original. Those who are successful build on the accomplishments of those before them. Give credit where credit is due.