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Sep 25, 2019
We live in times of autocatalytic change in which realizing growth is one of the hardest tasks. A growing graveyard of startups and corporate ventures is just the tip of the iceberg.
Innovation is no longer an option; it is a license for future survival. Research indicates that 6 out of 10 executives evaluate their innovation activities and capabilities as inadequate. Root cause: a missing innovative mindset and way of working.
DARE is about innovation and innovators. It provides a human-centric approach to innovation. Reading DARE gives insights in its most critical component: mindset. Many innovators get lured into the maze of frameworks and methodologies. Only few succeed in instilling a mindset of innovative growth in their organizations.
By reading DARE, you will benefit from over 50 years of experience in helping more than 200 organizations around the globe achieve ambitious growth goals. DARE is written from first-hand experience.
DARE to grow!
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 2
“To keep up with the world of 2050, you will need to do more than merely invent new ideas and products, but above all, reinvent
yourself again and again.”
— Yuval Noah Harari
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 3
Part One – Initiate
CHAPTER ONE – Do I know what I don’t know?
CHAPTER TWO – How do I make sure that I am still in business in five years’ time?
CHAPTER THREE – Can I kick it?
CHAPTER FOUR – Who are my growth BFFs and BEFs?
Part Two – Create
CHAPTER FIVE – Am I willing to experiment or die?
CHAPTER SIX – What are the rules of the game?
CHAPTER SEVEN – Do I have the basics in order?
CHAPTER EIGHT – Do I go by facts or fiction?
Part Three – Scale
CHAPTER NINE – How do I turn on the growth engine?
CHAPTER TEN – How to achieve full maturity?
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 4
Let’s get straight to the point. Time after all is not on our side in the digital age. Time might seem to be
abundant, but it travels at the speed of light and is gone before you know it. What is this book all about? DARE
is about innovation and the people behind it, the innovators.
We stress that innovative growth is the only way to stay relevant in this digital age. It is not a question of ‘should
I innovate?’ but rather ‘how?’ and ‘where?’ The threat of being disrupted lies just around the corner for every
industry and its leaders. A clear vision is needed to find the (right) way forward. But despite having this vision,
you can be almost certain that things will not play out the way you planned, nor will they follow your envisioned
route. There is so much we don’t know. Growth experiments, with their failures, successes and learnings, will
guide the way. And in today’s society a company can hardly go it alone. Partners, friends and allies are needed
to accelerate our new ideas and bring them to maturity as fast as we can.
Knowing where to innovate is as important as knowing how to innovate. Innovations come from the minds of
people. In order to be successful in innovation you need to have the proper mindset for it and way of working.
Nothing beats the human mind – despite what we will tell you later about the fallacy of intuition and cognitive
biases. Only the human mind is capable of making those rare connections between almost randomly retrieved
pieces of stored information in our brains. In order to make innovation work for you and your company you
need to have the right mindset. We call this mindset DARE. It comprises four key elements: defiance,
adventure, realism and endurance. The first two have a lot to do with the creative (and sometimes destructive)
part of innovation: the search for, and experimentation with, new ideas and business ventures. The second part,
comprising realism and endurance, is the executional part of innovation. It is often the hardest part, and is
concerned with the hard grind of making innovation happen and keeping it sustainable.
Innovation is not an individual exercise. It is the collective achievement of several people. These people might
be working separately and sequentially, or in parallel, on the same solution for years. They work individually, in
teams, in organizations and in ecosystems. Big-bet innovations are often seen as the achievement of a single
great mind, but you and I know that these icons have seldom acted alone. The same applies when it comes to
DARE. We know only a few people who embody all aspects of the DARE mindset. Teams, on the other hand,
can be deliberately forged around the four key characteristics.
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 5
Not a Chinese takeaway
This book is based on years and years of experience and exposure to all kinds of organizations, teams and
professionals. And, as many of you will surely recognize, we have developed our share of allergies and irritations
to ‘newly’ founded principles and approaches to management and innovation. Likewise, we look with a healthy
dose of skepticism at the rise of the ‘innovation guru movement’ and proliferation of the number of ‘mentors’
in our field. Let’s keep it real.
We have no pretense of being scientific. On the contrary, DARE is very practical and at times even pragmatic.
It is human centric as opposed to being heavily instrumental, a blended approach of strategy, business
administration, cognitive psychology, neurology and sociology. Our inspiration comes mainly from our
experience in the field working with clients on challenging growth ambitions. It is not about new methods,
trends or technologies. We have tried as much as possible to avoid the word ‘change’ but that is what it is: a
new state of mind and way of working to reap the benefits of what is on offer and shape our own destiny. It is
about you and how you can take advantage of the opportunities to innovate and accelerate the pace of growth
in your organization. It’s all in the mindset!
DARE is not a collection of checklists, tools and methods. It is not a Chinese takeaway menu from which you
can select a few numbered components. There are more than enough innovation methodology books on the
bookshelves waiting for prodigal readers. DARE is meant to be practical, guiding and interpretational. Use the
DARE approach to fuel your own innovation mindset. Not to leave you entirely to your own devices, our book
is complemented by the Growth Warehouse (www.revelx.co/warehouse), a digital repository of tools and
content. We hope that this book marks the beginning of a new network for growth professionals.
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 6
DARE to grow
Realizing growth is one of the hardest tasks in any organization. Realizing innovative and sustainable growth is
even harder. We see evidence of this all around us. Startups fail to scale. Corporates fail to leverage innovation
as a source of growth. The very existence of these businesses is at stake if they are not able to turn the situation
around. The statistics are staggering. Disruption is no longer a faint possibility, it is as real as can be. Do nothing
– or, even worse, be complacent about it – and your chances of survival are slim.
Our own research in innovation readiness clearly exposes two major issues inhibiting innovative growth. The
first pertains to having the right mindset and skills to innovate and use innovation tooling. The second can be
seen as an outcome of the first; the lack of speed and agility in materializing innovation to gain competitive
advantage. Recent HBR research (2018) showed that in a survey of more than 5,000 board members only 42%
of them considered their innovation and technology activities as above average or excellent. Boards’ abilities to
foster innovation clearly fall short.
When we discuss the challenges of realizing innovative growth with our clients, they unanimously come up
with one key issue: the lack of an innovative growth mindset within the organization. Taken into a wider
perspective, business leaders also report a lack of this mindset in their suppliers’ organizations and/or in the
industry ecosystem at large.
The problem with ‘mindset’ is that it cannot be easily acquired. Sure, innovative growth requires structures,
tools, methodologies, processes, procedures and capital. Yet these are ‘relatively’ easy to come by. Mindset is
part of a softer set of ingredients. It cannot be bought or sourced; at least not for the long term. It is about how
we think; about our attitude towards change, uncertainty and risk. Ultimately it is about how we behave and
act. A mindset should be grown and fostered. At the very least, there should be a fertile starting point.
The other issue is that we don’t have the luxury of time to develop this mindset in our organizations. The clock
speed of change is unparalleled. Then again, it is not about speed itself. We live in an era of autocatalytic change:
each change accelerates the rate of the next. We shouldn’t be thinking about speed in terms of ‘velocity,’ we
should be thinking about ‘acceleration.’ Or rather, how fast are we getting faster?
DARE – Defiance, Adventure, Realism, Endurance
Following the experiences recounted above, we started the DARE movement. One could say it is a response
to popular demand. We tap into an unmet need of corporate innovators looking for a new growth mantra or
mindset for their organizations and business partners alike.
DARE starts with having the courage to do something. To defy and challenge. To provoke and be bold in
breaking down the governing myths and beliefs in organizations and industries. It’s a rebellious mindset that
challenges the status quo; one that realizes that transformation can only occur when we don’t simply think
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 7
outside of the box but discard the box altogether. Observation is a powerful tool for defiance. Observe, yet do
not follow, the leaders in your industry and beyond. Try the opposite.
Defiance is followed by disruptive creativity and ‘failing forward’ – a popular startup term for discovery. It’s
about having an adventurous mindset. Being curious. Constantly looking for the ‘new new’ and being in a state
of ‘perpetual beta.’ The DARE mindset embraces adventure, like Peter Pan in Neverland.
In 1942, the Austrian Joseph Schumpeter introduced the concept of ‘creative destruction,’ the notion that
innovation would disrupt the current economic order. He developed the theory of ‘Neue Kombinationen’ -
connecting seemingly unrelated concepts to create something entirely new. Connecting the apparently random
dots is a powerful human brain characteristic of creativity. Experimental learning is the path of the adventurer.
Having an adventurous mindset also implies being comfortable with the unknown; venturing out on a path
from A to B, where B is not yet known. Where B is an emerging destination, which reveals itself when we allow
ourselves to embark on an adventure to uncover the hidden treasures and the diamonds in the rough.
Innovative growth becomes sustainable when the outcome of adventure is married to a sense of realism; when
fiction and adventure become fact. No business can exist on the merits of fantasy alone. Peter Pan needs to
cross swords with the Grey Wizard. Or, in the present day, the data scientist: the one that wields the weapon
of truth, who demystifies and objectifies. Realism also tells you that you have to make money with your new
ideas – a viable business case – and shows you the risks and pitfalls along the path of growth.
In many organizations, the largest impediment to realizing growth from innovation stems from a lack of
endurance. Endurance refers to disciplined execution. It refers to grinding down to the very end; to making things
happen. Along the way, the treacherous ‘valley of tears’ and ‘troughs of disillusionment’ have to be navigated.
Execution is often deemed inferior to strategy. Do not forget that innovation equals execution and execution
equals innovation. As is often said, strategy without execution is hallucination. The word success is derived
from the Latin word succedere which means ‘to follow through.’ Endurance is about sticking to your
commitments, even when the pay-off is not immediately apparent. In the end, achieving innovative growth is
down and dirty – and above all hard – work.
DARE is the mindset of successful change agents. It is the mindset needed to make and execute daring choices
in the high-stakes game companies play – or are forced to play – nowadays. DARE is also about the right
balance. We do not intend to mean that the DARE mindset applies to one individual alone. It applies to teams
and whole organizations. Each individual player in a team represents a combination of DARE qualities. The
measure of success lies in unifying these qualities and understanding their relative importance.
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 8
Mastering the management of uncertainty
Our role is to be your guide in times of uncertainty. We like to think of ourselves as masters of managing
uncertainty. We love the uncertainty that stems from the – often digital – disruption that is all around us and
which creates the innovative opportunities for us all to leverage.
We thrive on uncertainty. It is what makes us tick. We do not have all the answers and, of course, we cannot
make uncertainty disappear. Uncertainty is here to stay. In fact, we strongly believe the future won’t be one of
incremental change. It will be exponential.
Based on our collective experience, with hundreds of organizations of varying size and industry, we offer you
a perspective for coping with business uncertainty. By clarifying concepts and contexts. By offering innovative
plays to help you move forward effectively. Over the years we have founded a team of entrepreneurs, investors,
startup founders, tech pioneers and seasoned strategy consultants. Together we combine more than 200 years
of professional experience in which we must have failed more than a million times. Along the way we have
discovered that failure is the most powerful source of learning and innovation. It has helped us to embrace the
power of data and rapid experimentation. Better to learn fast than rely on gut-feel assumptions for too long. It
is up to you to formulate your own ambition. Our mission is to be your guide in achieving that ambition.
Transferring knowledge is part of our DNA. In a way, you could see us as innovation missionaries. We come
in peace and want to see you grow and prosper. In order to avoid ‘group think’ or ‘generation biased’ vision,
we wrote this book while tapping into the minds of our team at RevelX, a team covering three age
demographics: thirties, forties and fifties. The accumulated insights, convictions and experiences have given
our vision more richness and depth. For us, it was truly refreshing to discover that a lot of our preconceptions
about each other’s generations were unfounded. There is DARE in every generation.
DARE is for all innovators in the ‘digital age’
We wrote DARE for people who want to innovate yet hesitate to take the first steps. It is for the restless souls
– the hungry types – wherever they may be. It is for corporates and their inhabitants, the fat cats. It is for the
corporate innovators – the Peter Pans and the Grey Wizards – and for rebels and analysts alike. Ultimately it is
for any professional who recognizes that change is everywhere and is here to stay; everyone who acts in the
face of fear mongering by the disruption anarchists. Sure, the statistics concerning corporate longevity and ever-
shortening company life cycles are disheartening. Large companies are no longer built to last forever. The
concept of ‘too big to fail’ is more a motivator for disruptors than a license for complacency for the incumbent.
The average company lifetime is declining rapidly towards decades rather than centuries. Past performance is
no guarantee for the future. But there is a way out for those who are committed to the journey.
In short, DARE is for you, your team, your department, your organization and your industry. It is not about
the willingness to change but rather the need to change. Organizations don’t change, people change. The truth
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 9
is that nobody really likes to change. We have found that people don’t change when they ‘see the light.’ People
only change when they ‘feel the heat.’ When competition rises and a need for change becomes inevitable for
survival. Unfortunately, this is often too late. What is hard about change is overcoming the reluctance to leave
behind what has worked well for us in the past. Change initially always brings discomfort. However, it is far
better to feel uneasy than to become extinct. These are times of disruptive change and radical obsolescence.
The digital age brings a completely new ball game and it is played in fast-forward mode. Or, in other words,
what you are doing today may be without value and meaning tomorrow.
According to popular schools of thought – especially in the realm of startup incubators and accelerators –
corporates are deemed incapable or unfit for innovative growth. Corporates are supposed to be lean, mean,
operationally excellent machines, churning out products and services with Swiss-watch-like precision. Although
we agree that it is tough, we are firm believers in corporate innovation. We meet many executives who are
outward looking. Who actually listen to their customers. Who see and understand the trends in their markets
and society as a whole. Who are ready and able to act. And, maybe, even disrupt their own industries.
The DARE journey
The DARE journey is structured around ten leading questions. These questions underpin most of the
discussions we have with our clients and partners.
1. Do I know what I don’t know?
Successful innovators have a keen eye for what is going on in their world. At the same time, they
realize there are still a lot of unknowns and are keenly aware of this.
2. How do I make sure that I am still in business in five years’ time?
To make innovative growth work, you need to have a plan. Or rather, a vision of how you will
ride the wave of uncertainty and come out on top.
3. Can I kick it?
A vision alone does not do you much good. You will need a DARE mindset to get you started. How do
we put our plan into practice? How do we design for success? Do we ‘co-create’ or ‘go guerilla’?
4. Who are my growth BFFs and BEFs?
No man is an island. Innovative growth requires the help of friends (partners, capabilities and resources)
and the containment of enemies (competitors and disruptors). Do you know who they are and where to
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5. Am I willing to experiment or die?
We said it before: experimentation is the path of the adventurer. Experimentation de-risks innovation and
accelerates the outcomes. But, do you know how?
6. What are the rules of the game?
Are you setting yourself up for success or failure? Understanding and applying the right rules of the
innovation game ups the ante for your business.
7. Do I have the basics in order?
One should learn to walk before attempting to run. Yet, how do you set up a firm foundation for innovative
8. Do I go by facts or fiction?
Is your decision-making process based on facts and data or intuition and so-called expert opinions? Where
can you find the data and do you have a data system in place to support success in achieving innovative
9. How do I turn on the growth engine?
There comes a time to scale up. There are two key questions: when and how?
10. How to achieve full maturity?
Many innovations start in adjacent businesses or outside of the corporate walls. How do I bring them back
in? Or rather, should I bring them back in?
So, ten frequently asked questions… Each one probably deserves – and probably already has – its own book(s).
Why put them all in one? Because all of these questions are more or less connected. Answering one question
leaves you with having to answer the next.
We also realize that there is no one answer. Nor do answers stay the same over time. It depends on the context.
It is a never-ending quest. We have to get comfortable with not knowing. In the end, it is not about finding the
ONE answer. It is about the search (and thus, growth) itself. A search which is wrought with hypotheses,
experiments, trial and error.
We describe the DARE journey according to ten frequently asked questions. However, true innovations often
come from rarely asked questions. These ‘RAQs’ are often the questions we avoid, or which simply never cross
our minds. We use the RAQs in our work to create new insights or to mobilize the organization. Answering
the RAQs may be confrontational or uncomfortable. If they are, even better. It means we are getting close to
an innovation breakthrough. Questions we frequently ask may sound like, ‘What do you believe are absolute
truths about the future of your organization?’, ‘When was the last time you actually learned something new
about your business?’ or ‘Is your skill set up to par for this digital era?’ These questions serve as triggers for
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reflection, reframing and reimagining the future of the business. You will find a set of ‘uncomfortable’ questions
at the start of every section of the book. Just to tickle your brain.
So, how about yourself? Do you ask the uncomfortable questions? Are you comfortable with not knowing all
the answers? Feeling curious? Good! Then you are ready to dive into our book. Innovators constantly ask
questions that challenge the norm. Questions that nobody has the answer to (yet). Dare to start.
The process of growth: Initiate – Create – Scale
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
When we took a closer look at the frequently asked questions and some of the rarely asked ones we were struck
by an analogy with the evolutionary process in nature. Large mammals take on a quest to travel sometimes for
thousands of miles to find fertile grounds with enough food to give birth and to feed their calves. The herds
look for sheltered spaces that provide security for their siblings to grow up to become young and strong
survivors. The animals go to great trouble, sometimes risking their own lives, to ensure that the species survives
and is able to adapt to new times to come. They initiate the conditions for them to thrive and to make sure that
the newborns have a chance to survive. The funny thing is, as you will also read in our book, the growing up
phase, or in our business language the scale-up phase, often takes place somewhere else. The mammals often
take off in large flocks to find other places to further mature.
The base structure of DARE is built around the key issues and questions that managers and corporates struggle
with when trying to create the change needed to survive in the quickly evolving corporate landscape. The
capacity to adapt to change and act rapidly. The ten questions are structured in a logical way and follow the
evolutionary phases of creating the answers that you need to face today’s and tomorrow’s uncertainties. They
follow the three stages of growth: Initiate – Create – Scale. Just like propagation in wildlife.
Initiate captures the first four questions. It is about understanding what is happening around us. It is about
situational awareness; trying to figure out how your organization is impacted and what your response should
be. We will explain that (digital) transformation is not new, but rather a fact of life. We invite you to challenge
whether you and your team are able to lead and execute the way forward for growth. Do you ‘DIY’ or buy your
way into innovative plays? This part of the book also explains the need for having a clear direction or vision to
guide your ambitions and innovations. And to get things started, you will have to figure out whom to involve
and decide on your base change strategy. And last but not least we will hand you over the right DARE mindset
that you need to follow through. Dare to change, follow your plan and involve the right people.
Create is the centerpiece of the book. It comprises chapters five to eight, and deals with the process that puts
the customer first in your transformation process. It explores the need for experimenting in ‘controlled’ spaces
with a blended approach of design thinking, lean startup and an agile way of working. We give structuring
guidelines for organizing your innovation efforts in physical spaces called Growth Labs for validation and
Growth Accelerators for scaling those initiatives. We explain the rules of the game and create a fair (level)
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 12
playing field. It all starts with putting a team in place, with the right skills and competences, and empowering
them with substantial (C-level) support. In ‘create’ we also ask you to make an honest organizational assessment
of your innovative power and to get the basics in order. The last chapter of ‘create’ deals with one of the bare
necessities for realizing growth: decision making based on data and insights. It explains how data controls the
central nerve and blood system beneath all your growth activities. Data measures, feeds and nurtures all of our
Scale is the last part of the book. Scale refers to the making of a true commitment to innovative growth and
daring to make decisions with drastic consequences. Scaling is making the next step in new markets – beyond
the early adopters – in new customer groups and geographies. It is the further evolvement of adding more
products and features to the current offering, inventing new business models, new business processes and, last
but not least, adding new people to the team. A tough question for corporate innovators in this phase of growth
is, ‘How do I embed my early growth innovation in the existing organization? Do I integrate activities or keep
them apart?’ It is also the time for substantial financial commitments. While in the ‘ideation’ phase a growth
budget of 5K was sufficient, 50K was spent at the concept and creation stage, and a further 50-500K was
invested in developing and testing several Minimum Viable Solutions and optimizing the business model, the
scale-up phase requires a likely growth budget of several millions.
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 13
The DARE structure
Throughout the book, we follow the structure of the process of growth: initiate, create and scale. In each of
the growth phases we address the relevant leading questions. Let this be your guide for your own DARE
ONE Do I know what I don’t know?
TWO Am I still in business in five years’ time?
THREE Can I kick it?
FOUR Who are my growth BFFs and BEFs?
FIVE Am I willing to experiment or die?
SIX What are the rules of the game?
SEVEN Do I have the basics in order?
EIGHT Do I go by facts or fiction?
NINE How do I turn on the growth engine?
TEN How to achieve full maturity?
Copyright © 2019 RevelX & Amsterdam Publishers 14
Leonardo da Vinci – the quintessential DARE practitioner
While reading the biography of Leonardo da Vinci published by Walter Isaacson, we realized he is the
quintessential DARE practitioner. Allow us to take you on a historic journey and picture Leonardo as the
growth entrepreneur of the Renaissance, well over 100 years before the first corporate – the VOC in
Amsterdam – was ever founded (1602).
Leonardo da Vinci blended intense observation skills with theory, experimentation and multidisciplinary use of
geometry, art, biology, anatomy, physics, mathematics, optics and engineering. He truly was a self-made
professional. A painter, sculptor, writer, poet, singer/songwriter, illusionist, architect, engineer, anatomist,
geometrist, geologist and physicist. He had the ability to make connections across all these disciplines: art,
science, humanity and technology. He was a fashionista and trendsetter of his age, roaming the streets in
colorful pink and purple garments, defying the rules of fashion and frequently embarking on adventurous
He had a relentless curiosity and drive for experimentation. He was engaged in a constant search for wisdom
and a perpetual need to challenge it. He preferred to learn from experimentation rather than theory. Leonardo
based his work primarily on observations, discerning patterns and testing their validity through further testing
and experimenting. Just like any good DARE practitioner would do.
At a later age, after absorbing more knowledge, he combined the experimental approach with theoretical
frameworks and hypotheses. He built a complementary approach.
Leonardo also adhered to the RAQ method. He asked questions like: why is the sky blue? Why is the fish in
the water swifter than the bird in the sky? Or, why do people sleep? Those endless lists of questions were often
the starting point for Leonardo and the foundation for his observations and experiments. He dared to question
the things that people took for granted or believed to be true. This led to true innovations.
Da Vinci, a unique individual for sure, never worked alone. During his apprentice years in Florence in
Verrocchio’s studio, he enjoyed and experienced the benefits of working in a team. Much of Leonardo’s
thinking and work was collegial. Ideation was for Leonardo, as a cross disciplinary thinker, a collaborative
endeavor. This explains why there are many disputes about the true authorship of his works.
The process of bouncing around thoughts and jointly formulating ideas was greatly facilitated by the
Renaissance courts of that time. It was customary at the time that the noblemen ruling those courts – such as
the Medicis in Florence, the Sforzas in Milan, (later) the French kings, and even Henry VIII (who became
famous for his many wives, but was also an enlightened Renaissance king with a strong desire to learn the
unknown) – invited the enlightened artists, poets, architects, sculptors, painters, scientists and philosophers and
gave them and their pupils (or team members as we see them now) housing and income for their contributions
and works of art. It was a setup much like today’s startup and scale-up platforms and our Growth Labs and/or
Accelerators. (This is one of the topics we will address later in the book discussing the structural necessities for
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innovation). Ideas are often generated in physical places where people with diverse backgrounds and
competences meet and create.
Leonardo also showed a strong ability for pragmatism and realism. Knowing very well how to get things done
and to balance between the powers of the split-up Italy of that time: the Florentines, Milanese, Venetian, French
and the Roman Church, amongst others. It is not a coincidence that he became friends with Machiavelli – a
humanist and diplomat and founder of political science – and it was a fruitful and helpful relationship.
Leonardo had one major flaw: he was a bad finisher. The main inhibitor for this was his perfectionism and
quest for ideals; quite contrary to the current belief that ‘done is better than perfect.’ Some also argue that he
was easily distracted by everything around him; the flip side of the curious mind. Either way, Leonardo is a true
source of inspiration. Throughout this book we will use him as a revolving metaphor, asking ourselves time
and again: what would Leo do?
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