Every Renaissance Starts With New Thinking


After spending a fantastic time with my family strolling the streets of ancient Florence, admiring the Palazzo Vecchio, the Piazza Della Signoria, the Boboli Gardens and the majestic Santa Maria del Fiore I decided to spend a blog on an amazing time in Europe’s history: the Renaissance.

My goal is to illustrate how you can have your own Renaissance in your company and in your life, but in order to do that we need a little background.

So here it goes.

After Europe’s Middle Ages (also called the Dark Ages) that ran from roughly 500 A.D. until 1500 A.D. there was a spark of creativity and new thinking that started in Florence, Italy.

The Renaissance was a period of enlightenment, a new way of looking at society, humans, religion and art.

The Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages for a reason. The main reason it lasted for almost 1000 years was because people thought there was nothing more to know. Nothing more to invent. The commonly accepted worldview was that people were very insignificant and God was all. People had to accept the rule of those who represented God on earth, and if they did, all was well.

People who had different ideas were exiled or worse, beheaded, tortured or killed in other ways.

To make it simple, in a period of almost a 1000 years there was no room for new thinking, and thus, no progress was made. Wars, plagues and religious dogma ruled Europe.

Then the Renaissance (which means re-birth in French) burst loose in Florence and people like Dante Alighieri, Petrarca and Boccaccio started to have new ideas about people and society. The rich De Medici family protected people like DaVinci, Michelangelo, Donatello and Rafael from the iron fist of the Papal rule which allowed them to make art in a way nobody else could, and was allowed to before. We can still still see the results in Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chappel and Rafael’s School of Athens.

The new idea (well…kind of recycled from Aristotle and Plato…) of the Renaissance was the genius of man … the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind. And this was a break for the old thinking that focussed solely on a divine power.

We can still see the effects of this new thinking everywhere in Europe and in the world.

So how does this matter for you and your organization?

Every change starts with giving space to new thinking. Instead of discarding new ideas, it might be a good to listen to new thinkers. Are you cultivating new thinking or do you keep the same old (and safe…) thinking alive? Is new thinking appreciated or do you ridicule it? Do you create the space for new thinking to arise in and then cultivate the ideas that show up?

in 2016, hundred of years after the first Renaissance, we see cultures stuck in the Middle Ages all over the world, we see organizations stuck in an unwillingness to change. We see the human tendency to choose safety (the known) over growth everywhere. And it’s costing us wars, frustration, alienation, bankrupcy and suffering everywhere.

The central question is this:

Are you stuck in the Middle Ages of your corporation? Are you so addicted to old thinking that you discard new thinking? Or are you creating the conditions for new thinking to flourish, are you leaving enough space to have a corporate Renaissance?

It makes a world of difference.