Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci is for me the heart of what we must do. We have the creativity, the heart, the
courage but we need to deliver simply, elegant and
effective innovation. Creating a high tech laptop
for children in Africa is all good but if there is no network its
limited. An example of simple infrastructure building can
be found here at Fab Fi


A 26 node network created by using the materials found in the
city. Let’s follow this example and work together to create what’s needed
to solve the problems that threaten our world. I look forward to working with all of you through Evoke.

Views: 53

Comment by Justin Rim on March 5, 2010 at 3:54am
Its a great idea and a wonderful start. I'm really interested what could stem from this humble yet novel approach!
Comment by Calida DeBello on March 5, 2010 at 7:25pm
Leonardo knew the secret, didn't he? Some of his designs were so elegantly simple. What is the secret to making things simple, I wonder?
Comment by Raymond M. Kristiansen on March 6, 2010 at 1:11pm
The FabFi folks are amazing! I really hope their projects get more support.

Aid organizations wanting to do something good for people in developing countries very often over-complicate things. I dont have any specific examples here now, but read any book with "lessons from ____" or report and you will see how over-complication and/or lack of proper understanding of local conditions slows down a project.

I like that Da Vinci Quote, it's great.

Complicating things is a habit of thinking which is really hard to get rid of... I wonder what one can do about that. How people can Learn to simplify.
Comment by Brian Ballsun-Stanton on March 7, 2010 at 12:03am
Here's an interesting one, Kevin. Apply that global knowledge locally? How is the mesh network in Roch going? How can we/you have a community mesh network that doesn't need paperwork?
Comment by Kevin DiVico on March 7, 2010 at 2:24am
Hello Calida thanks for posting. I found this analysis of Da Vinci's work that sites 8 fundementals that may help us to embrace in our work that simplicity. the article is by John Hanks and can be found here

John Hanks is the vice president of industrial and embedded product lines at National Instruments. He holds a bachelor of science in engineering from Texas A&M University and received a master of science in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Eight Innovation Lessons from Leonardo da Vinci’s Machines
5 ratings | 4.80 out of 5Read in | Print
Table of Contents
1. Find Innovation in Water-Stained Walls
2. Reuse Fundamental Concepts
3. Make Your Own Cogs, Mix Your Own Paint
4. Maintain an Iron Will
5. Bridge Distant Worlds
6. Realize That Secrecy Increases Value
7. Recognize That Risk Has Its Rewards
8. Design Eternal Beauty
Innovation, National Instruments, and Leonardo da Vinci
I recently had the privilege of visiting the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia in Italy. As a long-term student of innovation, I have dreamed of visiting the museum that houses much of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. My hope is that by studying da Vinci’s work from the 1400s firsthand, I can learn things that can help engineers and scientists in the 21st century. In his famous notebooks, da Vinci doc**ented his own “studies” of fluid flow, bird flight, and human anatomy. What could a study of his methods possibly reveal as guiding principles for innovation in the past and in the future? Here are eight innovation lessons from the Master.

1. Find Innovation in Water-Stained Walls
Many of us have looked at the sky and seen the shape of a rabbit or horse formed in the clouds. Da Vinci’s fantastic mind certainly saw the simple things too, but we can only imagine the detailed connections his great mind made between random patterns and swirls. For example, da Vinci used water-stained walls as inspiration and an innovation tool. It is hard to know if da Vinci simply relied on luck and serendipity as sources for new ideas, or if he used the stained walls to tap into his subconscious and help him with existing projects. His projects at the time may have been at the forefront of his mind and the stains helped pull out new ideas. He did not use water-stained walls for random musings; he used them to give life to his paintings. After learning of his water-stain inspiration, I viewed the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and his self-portrait in new light.

Engineers and scientists who develop new products or ideas may need a version of a water-stained wall to bring forth new creative ideas. What is your water-stained wall? In today’s Internet-connected world, “deep googling” may be an example of water-stained walls. Deep googling means going beyond page one of search results to page 10 and beyond to get new insights. The search results are connected to the original search term, yet they are loosely connected providing new insights into the original idea. This may be how some of the great innovators you personally know actually think. They often have dynamic, nonlinear thought processes. Rather than give you the equivalent of the first page results from a Google search, they jump ahead to something new and unexpected.

2. Reuse Fundamental Concepts
After viewing da Vinci’s many mechanical prototypes, it was clear to me that he repeatedly reused simple principles in new ways. He was an expert in the use of worm screws, cogs, pulleys, gears, motion translation, and tension. Five hundred years later, these concepts seem fairly simple. However, the way he combined these elemental components in new practical ways to create machines for making mirrors, dredging rivers, and creating a multitemperature furnace are amazing. His deep knowledge of some fundamental concepts before others understood them made him a genius.
If da Vinci were alive today, what fundamental concepts would he bring under his will? For your career, take into account concepts you should bring under your dominion. Consider what new fundamental elements you can combine in new ways to address practical problems today.

3. Make Your Own Cogs, Mix Your Own Paint
Walking through the museum and looking at the machines closely made me think that da Vinci had a workshop where he made many of these fundamental components and devices (gears, cogs, pulleys, work screws, and so on) himself or he supervised others who made the core fundamental building blocks. The great builder probably mixed a lot of paint and made a lot of cogs himself. In a similar vein, I have also heard that great chefs boil their own water.

4. Maintain an Iron Will
Da Vinci, in his study of bird flight, calculated the ratio of a bird’s wing surface area to its weight. He used this calculation to estimate the surface area of a wing required to lift the weight of an average man. He then created prototype drawings and mechanical examples to test the ratio. He even built an example that required three men to spin a spiral wing (what is believed to be the first example of a helicopter). Ultimately, as we now know, birds produce more power or thrust per unit of mass. For much of da Vinci’s life, the idea of flight fascinated him. He produced many studies on the flight of birds, including his Codex on the Flight of Birds as well as plans for several flying parachute and hang gliding machines. It is not clear if even the hang glider worked in his lifetime. Yet, he did not give up his study.

5. Bridge Distant Worlds
Da Vinci’s use of skills in one area surely helped him in other areas as he experimented in such diverse fields as art, war machines, and bridges. He also seemed to be able to observe and learn from nature and then bridge his learning to practical everyday applications. His studies of fluid flow, human anatomy, and flight, it seems, were attempts to learn from nature with the aim of building practical machines, art, and sculptures.

The pattern for innovation today is similar, but instead we often bridge ideas from distant markets to create something new. Andrew Hargadon’s book How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate makes this point. Hargadon applies this framework to business case studies ranging from Henry Ford’s mass-production methods to the work of present-day industrial design firms. Hargadon suggests that companies can stimulate innovation by cultivating a diverse network of projects, clients, and suppliers to “capture” new ideas and exploit the resulting innovations.

Consider what worlds outside of your technical area you should be learning from.

6. Realize That Secrecy Increases Value
Da Vinci is famous for having written most of his personal notes and studies in reverse. He wrote backward, from right to left, such that the result is a mirror image of normal writing. Was he trying to hide his work? He must have had another reason to write backward.

I have three thoughts:

He was left-handed, so writing backward was more efficient.
He believed that by making his work appear to be secret, it made them more valuable.
He actually wanted to conceal his work.
The quality of the sketches and the studies that da Vinci made are amazing. Were they only for his personal use? Or, is it plausible that he used them as a type of marketing brochure for potential clients? If you were a potential da Vinci customer and you reviewed his high level of craftsmanship and quality of work, wouldn’t you be more inclined to think that he would do incredible work for you? A hypothesis is that he used his studies and notebooks to showcase his work and the fact that he wrote them using mirror writing gave the reader the impression that they were for personal use. Was Leonardo da Vinci a genius salesman, too? Probably!

What does this mean for you? In simple terms, develop great prototypes of your work. Your customer or partner may value your work even more if you treat it as if it were special and protect it with secrecy. Should you put a password on your software and encrypt your files? Possibly, but ultimately you want people to see your ideas and designs, so do not make the encryption too difficult to break. To give your ideas more credibility, consider how to protect them in the right way, but do not make the audience work too hard to understand your work. You want them to work just hard enough.

7. Recognize That Risk Has Its Rewards
Da Vinci studied, tested, and prototyped to learn. One of his daring studies was to perform an autopsy on a person to better understand muscles, tendons, and ligaments at a new depth to improve his art and sculptures. His willingness to take on this risk at a time when the church forbade human autopsies shows his commitment to knowledge and being the best. The result was that he probably knew more about human anatomy than any person up to that time. Consider if you are willing to go the extra step and take risks to understand something in your work to this depth.

8. Design Eternal Beauty
The famous art historian Bernard Berenson said it best about Leonardo da Vinci: “…nothing that he touched but turned into a thing of eternal beauty. Whether it be the cross section of a skull, the structure of a weed, or a study of muscles...” As engineers and scientists, we have a chance to create something of eternal beauty each day. Let’s get to work and prototype and make the world a better place.

– John Hanks

In the end I agree with Mr. hanks that its up to us , each one of us to find it within ourselves to make the world a better place. No matter what you do, these concepts can be applied.
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 10, 2010 at 6:34am
Great post! I've never heard of Fab Fi, but i'm really intrigued by what they do. It seems like the best way to turn an unneeded gift into something truly useful...
Comment by nomadHAR on April 17, 2010 at 8:05pm
Comment by Kevin DiVico on April 17, 2010 at 10:43pm
Nomad thanks for the links...


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