As you take in the impressive special exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa, you’re overwhelmed by one thought: This Leonardo da Vinci guy desperately needed a personal coach.
One day he’s an artist, the next day he’s designing mechanical devices, and on Tuesday he’s an expert on human anatomy. Sad, isn’t it? No focus at all.
If only he could have had a 21st-century supervisor to apply some structure to his career. A simple program of weekly progress reports and regular meetings requiring action steps, and that giant horse statue would have become a reality.
Instead, Leonardo followed his many interests wherever they led him and never did come up with a responsible business plan. Sure, he did plenty of things that we still revere 500 years later. But with a couple of seminars on time management and a few workshops on branding, the man could have become a serious profit center.
Basic example: Working for a patron is fine in a pinch, but nothing beats a bidding war. A guy in Florence makes you an offer, you tell him you’re interested, but you’ve got something cooking in Milan. An agent, that’s what he needed.
He also would have benefited from Six Sigma, the discipline in which “99.99966 percent of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects.” Think the flying machine ever could have hit that target, Leo? Then why bother sketching it when you could have been whipping up something suitable for mass merchandising?
In a book that was published too late for Leonardo’s benefit, “The Strategy-Focused Organization,” “the authors show how their models have linked long-term strategy with day-to-day operational and budgetary management, and detail the ‘double loop’ process for doing so, monitoring progress, and initiating corrective actions if necessary,” according to one summary.
I’m pretty sure this means that you can’t spend three years working on one painting. A solid time-efficiency study followed by production incentives and six-month performance reviews might have helped Leonardo finish “The Last Supper” more quickly and tap into tourist spending much sooner.
Likewise, his “Mona Lisa” has been a big hit, but imagine what it could have been if he had chosen to show some skin. We have come a long, long way in giving the audience what it really wants. Also, it’s a poor business model to simply declare the job done and walk away. At the very least, Leonardo should have booked his model into some personal appearances, charged for her autograph and followed up with more portraits while she was a hot commodity.
Maybe a “four seasons” approach, or maybe depicting her in various popular settings – pensive on the Ponte Vecchio, frolicking in the Adriatic Sea, stuff like that. Focus groups would have helped here. If the folks with the spending money really liked the drab, dark dress, fine; but if they went nuts for plaid, then plaid it should have been.
No, it’s hard to imagine the great man finding steady employment in our time.
Who would hire him to work in the private sector? Consider that Leonardo believed “only the inventor matters.” Wow, talk about a flashing red light for any would-be employer. Only the creative types? Not the folks in marketing and accounting?
And listen, a guy who writes his research notes backward to keep them secret is not above doctoring his performance review somehow.
He just might work out in the Department of Defense, though, because he loved weaponry.Here’s an endless supply of money, Leonardo. Here are the controls to a pilotless drone.
And here’s a map showing the coordinates of Michelangelo’s so-called masterpieces.
Jim Pollock is the editor of the Des Moines Business Record. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org