Think Like a Genius

Updated 2016:
I still meet with people (in both HE and in business) who feel overwhelmed with the amount that needs to be done and with the speed with which we now have to process “stuff” as it hits our ever-more-mobile-digital environment. I will be delivering some workshops on this subject in the near future but for now I am curating my ideas and will be researching new resources to bring everything completely up to date.

Updated: 2014
I originally posted this in August 2008 but it is still relevant (perhaps increasingly so) so I have re-posted it:


Think Like a Genius … The Mind’s Eye …

August 14, 2008

I have recently [2008] read “Overcoming Information Overload” by Tina Konstant & Morris Taylor, which is part of the Instant Manager series from the Chartered Management Institute.

I particularly enjoyed the section on “Think Like a Genius“…

“Geniuses like Newton or Archimedes didn’t simply sit under trees or in a bush until they became enlightened. They used some very powerful and practical tools to create order out of their thoughts and to find answers to problems that few people ever thought existed, let alone considered solving.

Some factors common to the world’s greatest thinkers:

  • Idea generation is in pictures and images rather than words.
  • Einstein and da Vinci drew diagrams instead of writing words and sentences.
  • Their thinking is unrestrained; nothing is rejected until it has been fully investigated.
  • Ideas are explored using association.
  • They fuel their imaginations with knowledge.
  • They never give up”


Tools for generating genius thinking

“Mapping … it is worth talking about information mapping. ‘Mind Mapping’ was formalised and labelled by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. Great thinkers have used similar techniques for centuries. Leonard da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, like other geniuses, represented their ideas through diagrams and ‘maps’.

You might know them as spider-graphs or thinking maps, but whatever you call them, they all have the same features:

  • pictures instead of words
  • links between relationships
  • main concept in the middle, gradually becoming more detailed towards the end of branches
  • single words or ideas per line
  • colour”


Leonardo da Vinci

That reference to da Vinci reminded me of some of the fantastic drawings and sketches I had seen many, many, many years ago in the National Gallery – until then, I hadn’t realised that he was an inventor (I was completely shocked that he had invented a flying machine that we’d recognise as a helicopter!), a sculptor, a mathematician, a botanist, an architect because I had wrongly thought of him as an artist, famous for the Mona Lisa.



The extent to which he had drawn images to represent thoughts and details really surprised me. The picture below is a study of perpetual motion.


The V&A Museum has some excellent articles about his work on their website and is well worth a visit to see their collection of da Vinci’s notebooks.

The Mind’s Eye – The Measure of All Things

“For Leonardo, sight was the noblest and most certain sense. It provided access to “experience”, which shows us how nature works according to mathematical rules. Any knowledge that could not be certified by the eye was unreliable.

He investigated the relationship of the eye to the brain.He proposed a system in which visual information was transmitted to the intellect via the receptor of impressions and the “common sense”, an area where all sensory inputs were coordinated.” (V&A)


I now realise that visual imagery is the best place for thinking things through … but it took me quite a while to make the connection. For that, I will always be grateful to Jamie Nast, author of Idea Mapping.

It was Jamie who helped me realise that colour and images help the brain to think better, quicker, clearer and to remember better.

Visual Thinking is a topic close to my heart (the combination of VISION and DETAIL) but I really hadn’t realised that Leonardo da Vinci had investigated the relationship between visual information and intellect.

If it was good enough for da Vinci … I’ll continue to explore the tools at my disposal …


Update: 2014

In the era of Big Data and Data Visualisation it is becoming ever more important for us all to understand the relationship between visual information and intellect and to become whole-brain thinkers.

Two people have been my inspiration for whole-brain thinking, namely Daniel Pink and Jamie Nast and I am deeply indebted to them both.

Whole New Mind


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