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11 Proven Habits of Highly Innovative People What we call innovation is really a way of looking at the world and finding a place in the patterns where improvement is possible.

By Deep Patel Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Hoxton | Tom Merton | Getty Images

The biggest success stories always hinge on innovation and creating breakthroughs no one else achieved. The people behind these departures from the norm are revolutionaries; they are courageous enough to step away from the tried-and-true methods to carve their own way forward.

Innovative people disrupt whole industries with their ideas. Their brainchildren take on lives of their own and may impact generations to come. So what gives these super-creative people their edge? How do they tap into that talent? For one, they've learned to cultivate certain habits that support and heighten their creativity.

Here are 11 proven habits that highly innovative people use daily.

1. Pursue your passions.

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated, meaning that their drive comes from within. This internal desire spurs them to pursue their dreams.

Innovative people feel compelled to follow their passions. They are energized by challenging activities. Highly innovative and successful people aren't necessarily the most talented of the bunch, but they consistently and persistently go after their goals.

Others slack off because their motivation is extrinsic, or externally motivated by rewards such as money, fame, grades or praise. Internally driven motivation is usually most effective because the person desires to put in the work to succeed. This is strongly linked to the "Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity," or the propensity for creativity to flourish when people are motivated by personal enjoyment of the work itself.

Related: 5 Habits That Made Elon Musk an Innovator

2. Keep a book of ideas.

The most successful and creative people are often obsessive note takers. They have a habit of writing things down, whether it's a stroke of genius that came to them in a moment of inspiration or an interesting concept they read about. As great as your memory might be, when an insight comes to you, it's always best to put it into written form so you can go back and evaluate it later.

Creative people also tend to be doodlers and list makers. They jot down to-do lists, places they want to visit and books they want to read so they can refer to them later.

Related: 7 Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs That Startup Owners Should Follow

3. Expand your mind through experiences and knowledge.

Occasionally a bolt of lightning strikes and a fully formed brilliant idea comes to us, but that's not something you can really bank on. Creative people know that you can't maintain your leading edge while waiting for inspiration to strike. Creativity requires fuel, and that fuel includes gaining knowledge through reading and studying new things, as well as by being open to new experiences.

Innovative people thrive on traveling. They love learning about foreign cultures, visiting art museums, taking walks in nature, learning to play an instrument or any other way they can expand their mind. When knowledge and experiences are combined, your mind's ability to be flexible and understand complex ideas is enhanced.

Related: Why Travel Should Be a Top Priority for Every Entrepreneur

4. Question everything.

Highly innovative people are naturally curious, and they're inclined to question many of the assumptions everyone else just accepts. The more you question, the more your imagination is stimulated to consider other possibilities. This is why creative people are constantly investigating and examining things, including their own products and the quality of their own services.

They aren't afraid to ask why or why not. They are curious about customer needs, desires and motivations. They constantly challenge themselves to see things from a different perspective, including questioning the status quo, which opens them to new possibilities.

Related: How Perpetual Curiosity Can Lead You to Success

5. Set up a creative environment.

The atmosphere we surround ourselves with influences our ability to tap into our creativity. Innovative people know what elements will trigger their imagination.

They understand the importance of creating the right environment that will both stimulate creativity and let ideas flow naturally. They set up their work space and living space in a way that is comforting and relaxing. They seek out places where their mind is free to relax and wander.

They also tend to work hours that best suit them. Some people are more creative at night, others in the morning. Innovative people structure their days accordingly. They set their routine and craft their environment to help them tap into their creativity.

Related: Create the Best Environment for Creative Employees With These 6 Principles

6. Free yourself of constraints.

Our beliefs have the power to shape our lives. They can either chain us down or propel us to new heights. To truly innovate, we must free ourselves of our inhibitions. We have to remove the constraints that box us in and throw out old assumptions and self-limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs often stem from our fears and take the form of negativity and excuses. Every time we say I can't, I don't or I'm not, we are limiting ourselves and rationalizing staying in our comfort zone. Truly innovative people instinctively look for ways to break free. They don't allow themselves to become mired in old ways. They have the confidence and the courage to press on and keep challenging themselves and the world around them.

Related: How I Lost These 3 Self-Limiting Beliefs as a Woman Entrepreneur

7. Nurture the creative process.

Highly innovative people understand that they must let the creative process run its course. They recognize that ideas have to go through an incubation period. Ideas often percolate through the subconscious and need to "stew" for a bit before they are fully formed.

Highly innovative people allocate time each week to brainstorm and meditate. They recognize that they must give themselves the space and time for creativity to blossom. This stage is key to the creative process and allows ideas and concepts to become refined.

Related: How Writing Regularly Can Boost Your Creativity and Clarity

8. Relentlessly look for patterns and connections.

The world is full of interesting patterns and connections. Innovative people notice these arrangements. They spot the relationships between people and places, and between data points. They look for meaning within the order of things, to better understand why things are the way they are and how they can be improved. They notice small details: how people behave, what sets them off, what makes them excited, sad or happy.

They pay attention to how people interact with each other and with their surroundings. All this is fuel for ideas and drives them to look more deeply into these processes.

Related: Think Like Van Gogh and 4 Other Must-Read Business Tips

9. They juggle multiple areas of interest.

Truly great innovators aren't satisfied with focusing on one project. They feel driven to pursue multiple ventures and interests, which may overlap and feed off of each other. They have multipotentiality, or the ability to excel in multiple areas and fields.

It may seem like some creative people are easily distracted, constantly bouncing from one thing to the next. In reality, they are just wired to be interested in many things. They may feel a calling to dive into multiple projects because their wide range of creative interests pulls them in different directions.

They aren't satisfied with pursuing one calling, and they may struggle if they are forced to pick one career field, which could make them feel stifled.

Related: 10 Traits of the Most Innovative Entrepreneurs

11. They tinker and take things apart.

Innovators are driven to better understand how everything works. They are the tinkerers and dabblers, the ones who pull something apart to see if they can put it back together, probably with a modification or two of their own. And this process of deconstruction and reconstruction isn't necessarily only with physical things. Think of the jazz musician who takes a song apart and then puts it back together through improvisation to create something new and unique each time.

Highly creative people seek to understand how and why things work the way they do. By drilling down into the components that make something up, they can see how it is connected and how it can be improved.

Deep Patel

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Serial Entrepreneur

Deep Patel is a serial entrepreneur, investor and marketer. Patel founded Blu Atlas, the fastest-growing men’s personal care brand, and sold it for eight figures in 2023, less than 18 months after its launch.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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