The Leonardo principle

Three out of seven: “Curiosità/ curiosity,” “Sensazione/sensory force” and “Dimostrazione/skepticism.” A performative self-presentation by Chantal Hoefs (Perform your project “Hunde und Kartoffeln,” 2019). Photographs: Chantal Hoefs

Paolo Bianchi, what is the Leonardo Principle?

Leonardo was not a polymath, but a “poly-learner.” He saw himself as a student and taught himself by producing his own teaching material. He achieved what all of us strive for: he surpassed himself. The epithets that are commonly used today to describe the progressive — innovative, ecological, creative — are concentrated in this Renaissance man. Five hundred years later, Leonardo can still be a shining example for us: it is about ideas that change the world — about thinking outside the box.

Within creativity research and career guidance, Michael Gelb’s “The Leonardo Principle” (1998) teaches the universal genius’s seven competencies. Their application enables the postmodern person to activate their creative potential.

“Curiosità” stands for insatiable curiosity: those who marvel withstand the danger of wasting their lives. “Dimostrazione” denotes skeptical knowledge: I know that I am ignorant. “Sensazione” refers to perception: we only become human in perceiving with all our senses. The soft “Sfumato” stands for accepting the ambiguous, paradoxical and uncertain. “Arte/Scienza” seeks the interdisciplinary and researches between science, art and everyday life, between logic and fantasy, order and chaos. “Corporalità” recalls the ideal of the “healthy mind in a healthy body” and Leonardo’s strength training: he bent horseshoes with his bare hands. “Connessione,” the seventh principle, refers to the fact that all phenomena are interconnected.

Leonardo’s Mona Lisa reads like the synthesis of these principles. Creative persons also learn something else from Leonardo: creativity arises from diversion and leisure, which he cultivated extensively. Concretely: when painting the Last Supper, simply climb down the scaffolding and go for a walk.

Under its head Paolo Bianchi, the CAS Creationship provides creativity coaching and teaches applied lateral thinking. The MAS Creative Practice enables participants to expand and deepen their individual creative and artistic potential.
Paolo Bianchi ( is a lecturer at the Department of Cultural Analysis at ZHdK and the founding director of the CAS Creationship.
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