You know what stand-up comedians love? When they get off stage and some bloke from the audience working on his fourth gin and tonic pulls them aside to tell them how they should have told one of their jokes.

Actually, that’s a bald-faced lie. Comedians hate that, but they get it every time they perform. Why? Because people are naturally drawn to creative individuals—even if it’s to annoy them with unsolicited advice on how to carry out their ideas.

Creativity: The Driving Force Behind Everything Good That Has Ever Happened

Whether it’s Steve Jobs imagining a mobile phone that doubles as a personal computer or Michelangelo chipping away the unnecessary rock to reveal a flawless statue of David, creativity is the driving force behind innovation and success. Creativity can draw skepticism, ridicule and derision, but in the end, creative people are visionaries and natural opportunists who steer art, politics, culture and business.

The Building Blocks of Creativity

Is creativity a gift, or can it be taught and learned? The guy at the comedy club is probably a lost cause, but the rest of us can use creative thinking techniques to enhance the four key ingredients needed for creative thinking:

  • The ability to observe
  • The ability to listen
  • Reflection
  • Communication

Creative Thinking Techniques and the Question “Why?”

When a client shows me a new product, the first thing I do is ask them why they created it. When they answer, I ask another ‘why?’ question, then another and another. When they can no longer provide an answer, that’s when the product’s true purpose is revealed.

Like the iPhone and the David statue, creativity is about boiling ideas down to their most simplistic form through the creative process. Although that process is different for everyone, it usually involves quiet reflection and internal focus.

My best creative thinking happens when I’m in the shower—which might not be the most conventional place, but it works for me.

You should focus on this process when you do your best and clearest thinking. Maybe that’s at night before bed or in the morning before you’re bombarded by the day. For others, this may be during the car ride to work or during an early morning walk.

Work on honing your ability to be creative every day and take an honest inventory about what and when works best for your own creative thinking. When people start asking questions that you think have simple, obvious answers, congratulations! It means you’re seeing things from a different point of view that the layperson needs explained. Stoking creativity requires work and consistency, but when you tap into your creative side, your business will become your masterpiece.