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Steve Jobs Systematically Cultivated His Creativity. You Can Too.

What Jobs did intuitively to unlock his creativity has been scientifically proven to work.

Dec 03, 2021

by Derek Doepker, 2017

The Apple brand is synonymous with creative product design as well as appealing to the creative artist. This was in large part thanks to the work of Steve Jobs, whose creativity was a guiding force in his approach to leadership, product design and marketing. While there’s no doubt that Jobs had a naturally creative brain, thanks to modern research, we can see that Jobs’ artistry was also due to practices every entrepreneur can adopt to enhance creative thinking.

Enhancing creativity is especially important in today’s dynamic technological world. A company that fails to continuously innovate will quickly become obsolete. Creativity is essential for entrepreneurs to guard against disruption and maintain relevance. Here are three methods that Jobs used to enhance his creativity that you can immediately implement to increase your problem solving abilities and innovative thinking.

Pursuing diverse interests.

After dropping out of college, Jobs decided to pursue classes that interested him, such as calligraphy. While there was no foreseeable practical purpose to taking this class, in his famous Stanford commencement speech, he shared how that class was responsible for the Macintosh’s beautiful typography.

Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

Research backs up what Jobs intuitively understood. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says that openness to new experience is the strongest personality trait for predicting creative achievement. “Thinking outside the box” may more accurately be understood as “Drawing from different boxes.” It appears that a “jack of all trades” may in fact be a potential master of creativity, and this explains why Jobs praised liberal arts and humanities.

While openness to new experiences may be a personality trait established by early adulthood, everyone can choose to explore new experiences. Taking a note from Jobs, the key is to not limit one’s criteria to what’s immediately practical. Rather, the aim should be challenging yourself to explore experiences that simply pique your interest. Study businesses that are unrelated to your own. Occasionally change your routines to unlock new discoveries.

We can also learn from Jobs about staying focused in light of diverse pursuits. He said, “Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” While it’s beneficial to juggle a variety of interests up to a point, this must be balanced with the discipline to say “no” to what could ultimately become distractions from one’s top priorities.


In the book Becoming Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender notes that Jobs often took brainstorming walks with others. Research now confirms that Jobs' walks can help unlock creative insights.

In the book Neurowisdom, neuroscience researchers Mark Waldman and Chris Manning show the difference in brain activity between the “decision making mind” and the “creative mind.” When one is focused on a task and working on completing a goal, he or she is using the decision making mind. “Aha moments” often come when one takes a break from a task and engages the creative mind by allowing for mind-wandering activities like daydreaming. According to Stanford research, walking can boost creative output by 60 percent.

Entrepreneurs can use walking, both alone and in groups, to boost their creative thinking. When stuck on a task with no apparent solution, a short walk can be the perfect catalyst to trigger an “aha” insight. If walking isn’t an option, an alternative way to engage the creative mind is taking a short break from being task focused to allow yourself time for relaxation and daydreaming.


After dropping out of Reed College, Jobs spent a few months in India where he discovered and embraced Zen Buddhist meditation practices. Jobs was so enraptured with Zen that he considered moving to Japan to further his practice.

Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson, "If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things -- that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.”

Jobs' meditation practice helped him develop creativity. Meditative practices, such as “open-monitoring training,” encourage divergent thinking, a process of allowing the generation of many new ideas, which is a key part of creative innovation.

Particular meditation practices not only enhance creativity, but can also help develop empathy. It was Jobs' empathy with customers that gave him insight into delivering what they wanted, even if the customers weren't able to describe what they desired. Entrepreneurs can practice mindfulness meditation to enhance their creativity, increase emotional intelligence and reduce stress.

While Jobs' genius can’t be boiled down to only three practices, what we do know is that greater inspiration is available when we understand how to tap into the creative mind. As entrepreneurs, we can also learn from Jobs to hire those who bring a new perspective and creativity that we lack. Collaboration, conducted in the correct way, is another critical component for creative breakthroughs.

Apply these three practices, and introduce them to your team to get the creative edge you need in today’s demanding marketplace.

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