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7 Habits of Highly Innovative People

Have you ever looked at super creative or innovative people, and felt they are special beings blessed with gifts? Have you felt that you are not as fortunate? I used to feel this way. I have since learned that creativity is more about psychology than intellect, and there are no secrets to being creative. Actually, there is no such thing as “being more creative”, you are already a creative being.

I’m sure we can all relate to moments when we felt stuck trying to tap into our own creativity. Did you know that this block is merely your mind at work? Your mind is creating all sorts of assumptions, self-imposed constraints and self-limiting inhibitions. I have found that we can remove these assumptions just by being in the moment; start doing, and stop thinking.

Here are seven habits found in highly innovative and creative people that I’ve organized and summarized from Scott Berkun‘s “the myths of innovation“.

1. Persistence – Innovation involves more than just great ideas. We need faith, hard work and a laser sharp focus for the end result to keep persisting for our vision in the face of roadblocks. We tend to see the end result of a creative idea in awe, but what we don’t see are the actions, hard work and persistence behind the scene to make the vision a reality.

Invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration“,

–Thomas A. Edison

2. Remove Self-Limiting Inhibitions – Under the spell of inhibition, we feel limited and stuck. We need to free ourselves from these mind-created constraints by removing assumptions and restrictions. This is what we refer to when we say “think outside the box”. Encourage ourselves to be open to new ideas and solutions without setting limiting beliefs. Remember, innovation is more about psychology than intellect.

3. Take Risks, Make Mistakes – I believe that part of the reason why we create self-imposed inhibition is due to our fear of failure. Expect that some ideas will fail in the process of learning. Build prototypes often, test them out on people, gather feedback, and make incremental changes. Rather than treating the mistakes as failures, think of them as experiments. “Experiment is the expected failure to deliberately learn something.” (Scott Berkun). Instead of punishing yourself for the failures, accept them, then take your newfound knowledge and put it towards finding the best solution. Live up to your goal of producing the best result, but understand you might hit roadblocks along the way.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

–Thomas A. Edison

4. Escape – Our environment can and does effect how we feel. The more relaxed and calm we are internally, the more receptive we are to tap into our flowing creativity. This is why ideas sometimes come to us in the shower or while we’re alone. Each of us have different triggers to access our creative energy. I get into the ‘creative zone’ from sitting at my dining table, with a warm cup of chai, and my noise-canceling headphones. Many great thinkers go on long walks to help them solve problems. Experiment and find what works for you.

5. Writing Things Down – Many innovators and creative people keep a journal to jot down ideas and thoughts. Some keep a sketch book, scrap book, post-it notes, loose paper. They all have a method to capture their thoughts, to think on paper, to drop their inhibitions and start the creative process. Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous notebook was purchased by Bill Gates for $30.8 Million dollars.

6. Find Patterns & Create Combinations – Ideas come from other ideas. Did you know that Edison wasn’t the first one who came up with the invention of the light bulb? He was the first to build a workable carbon filament inside a glass bulb, that made light bulbs last longer. You can increase your exposure to new ideas, look for patterns and see how you can combine ideas to improve upon existing solutions.

7. Curiosity – Many innovators are just curious people who are inquisitive, and like to solve problems. Practice seeing things differently. For example, When seeing the solution to a problem, ask yourself, “What are some alternative ways to doing this?”. Ask a lot of questions and challenge the norms or existing methods.

Here are some techniques you can apply to cultivate creativity:

  • Keep a Journal – Practice writing every thought, idea, and inspiration down. Practice, brainstorming and thinking on paper.
  • Solve the Opposite Problem – Scott talked about this technique. The idea is to invent and brainstorm by solving the opposite problem that you are trying to solve. So, for example, if you are trying to create “The best laptop design”, then start with ideas to create “The worst laptop design”. For each idea you come up with, flip it. For example, if “heavy and clunky” is one idea for “The worst laptop design”, then flipping that might give me “light and sleek” which can be used in “The best laptop design”.This technique works especially well when brainstorming in a group.The technique sounds so silly that people will become playful when answering. Humor brings down inhibition and encourages people to say things out aloud. People feel less insecure and more open.
  • Find A Creative Environment – Find a relaxing or inspiring environment that triggers your creativity. Try different spots until you find some that really bring out the best in you. I alternate between my living room (which I have carefully decorated) and a couple of local coffee shops.
  • Do something fun – If you’re stuck on something, shift your thoughts by going to do something fun and completely different. Come back to it with a fresh mind.
  • Partnering – Find creative partnerships with another. New ideas can surface as a result of two forces that would not have been arrived by a single person. Brainstorm together.
  • ‘Commit to Failure’ – “Commit yourself to taking enough risks that you will fail some of the time. If you’re not failing, we’re not doing something sufficiently difficult or creative.” -Scott Berkun
  • Talk to Someone About It – I have found that when I try to articulate a particular problem to someone, that I’ll somehow articulate my solution, as well. When explaining my situation, I’m not expecting them to solve my problem, but rather act as a ‘bouncing board’ for ideas.
  • **Plan for Roadblocks -Commit to efforts to overcome potential setbacks. It’s worthwhile to identify and have a plan for non-creative items that may inhibit creative thinking. Scott talked about the most common roadblocks people face: Loss of motivation, ran out of money, unable to convince key person.

What do you think are some common trait of innovative people? Share your thoughts in the comments below. See you there!

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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170 thoughts on 7 Habits of Highly Innovative People

  1. Really enjoying reading your blog. And loved this most recent post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. jay

    these are some great tips! ive always been the type of person who just automatically assumed im not very creative. thx for showing me how wrong i am =)

    another tip that may help spark your creativity skills is to maybe learn something new, that requires thinking in abstract patterns and the use of the right side of the brain (like learning to play guitar, learning a foreign language, etc)

  3. Another great post. Oh by the way, both our sites got updated to PR3! =)

    I have a feeling Thomas Edison said that “Invention is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration“ because he “found so many different ways to invent a light bulb”. Imagine all the time it took him!

  4. Another thing that people forget is that creativity can be found in almost anything, it’s not limited to those things that spring to mind when you hear the word like painting, sculpting, writing, etc.

    It can be anything… creative video editing, party planning…

    Whatever you like to do, you can be creative while doing it.

  5. Nice post as always Tina! Some people believe that creativity comes from beyond you – you just have to let it flow.

    As a side note, I’ve maintained a similar list of creativity tips for those interested.

  6. Colleen

    To begin with Tina, I just love the (speak!) button! AND, You have hit some great points here. I have personally found that I am most creative when I completely let go and have no attachment to the outcome. I may know what I want but I am not attached to it. I am in what I call my working meditation or zone. As you had mentioned the logical mind wants to take over, criticize, critique and put limitations on our goals. You have given some great tricks (I especially liked the “Solve the Opposite Problem” one. What a great idea for overcoming these blocks to creativity…Whether or not we realize it we are creating every moment of our lives. The Chef preparing fabulous meals, the mother that sews her children’s clothing. The teachers teaching our children. We are ALL creative beings! I so look forward to more of your articles Tina!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I always enjoy your blogs. Very inspiring, and it makes my day wonderful!

  8. You guys are soooooo amazing. Thank you for the comments. I feel all warm and fuzzy inside as I read them, oh and wearing a big ear-to-ear smile. :)

    Indeed we are all creative beings.. Thank you all for listening and allowing me to express myself here. ^_^

    [bounce bounce]

  9. Hi Tina,

    This is the best article i have ever read about personal development so far in a blog. I am quite sure one day will come and i will order your book via Amazon :)

    Please keep up the good work! Your blog is worth spending 20 minutes everyday to think out of the box and refresh my mind and soul. I am proud of being a friend of you from a physically very long but spiritually short distance :)


  10. Hasina

    It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

    Tina i really enjoyed this article. You are doing very well.

  11. Gil

    CRAP! Yes crap! Tina, there are 8 and not 7. Weren’t you paying attention to my talk at TED? Crap, crap, crap. To be successful at what you do, you need to do everything Tina said in here plus one more. You need to know how to deal with stinky CRAP. Criticism, Rejection, Assholes, and P… I forgot what P stands for. Too much “pressure” makes me lose concentration. :)

  12. wow, another great post. i like the philosophy that all mental blocks are self-imposed. such wisdom!

  13. Armannd

    “Have you ever looked at super creative or innovative people, and felt they are special beings blessed with gifts?” – As a matter of fact, I have. I have looked at the super innovative people and I have clearly seen that they *have* “special” gifts. :) Rejecting this fact seems rather simplistic to me… I mean, I know that the self-help industry wants to send out the message that it can help people in every conceivable way, beyond imagination, so that loads of cash can be made, but pushing things too far into this naive direction doesn’t come free of risks – enormous ones.

    This article may help remove the dust from one’s creativity, so overall it’s a good effort for the community. Thanks!

  14. Caleb

    Thanks for all the wisdom and everything. This is one more reminder how essential focusing on the moment is for success and happiness.

  15. @armannd “Rejecting this fact seems rather simplistic to me… I mean, I know that the self-help industry wants to send out the message that it can help people in every conceivable way, beyond imagination, so that loads of cash can be made, but pushing things too far into this naive direction doesn’t come free of risks”

    I hear what you are saying and where you are coming from. But I do know this from personal experience: “What we tell ourselves becomes our story. Our story becomes our reality.”

    I believe that we are all geniuses because we are all connected to the same source. What we label as “gifts” is merely a person who are more aware of this connection.

  16. Hi Tina,

    It took me 8 years to realize the 7 habits.

    I never knew that there is so much power within me.

    Hanisa’s comment makes me think of Jack Canfield’s words in The Secret. :)

    I like the 7 habits. It rhymes with me. Thanks for sharing it. :)

  17. Hi Raymond,

    I thought the same about Hanisa’s comment. It was like watching that scene from the secret again. :)

    I’m curious to find out what are your biggest influences that helped you to realized the enormous power within yourself?

    Thanks for commenting!

  18. Great Post. I love the one on making mistakes. You are so right. The ones who are afraid of mistakes are never going to move forward. Hey lets make a mistake a day. And learn from that mistake.
    Thanks for the post

  19. Hi Tina,

    I have reply to you through emails.

    I didn’t reply here ‘cos it’s too long. :)

  20. You have the order correct! Number one is critical. Don’t give up. It’s easier said than done, but when I get off my butt and take action it feels great!

  21. Love your blog. Thanks for inspiring me.

    I have linked to your article, and no doubt will link to more, because I love it. Best wishes.

  22. Hey Tina,

    I have one important habit to add, the habit of asking “why”? Not exactly like curiosity but questioning established processes and procedures in order to improve.

    James Soh

  23. raj

    What can I say, if I could actually make my self do all of that, I’d be the next Warren Buffet or someone like Arnold with a very rewarding and purposeful life,

    P.S Actually Arnie’s always been an idol of mine cos I wanted to build muscles like him but then I had a very crazy accident couple of years ago and there are steel rods in my right arm and right leg, suffered big concussion and then another one when I suffered another accident and this time I was the passenger, docs told me to lay off hard work outs for ever n it got me depressed for a time but I did get over that, it was a hurdle n it’s past me and now I am working hard at a career in investments/entreprenuer in a nice business etc, thanx or the article very helpful n fresh …

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