The One About Producing Ideas

Discovery is a wonderful thing. Just the other day, buried beneath a hoard of dusty old books, I came across a copy of James Webb Young’s ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’.  And this is without a doubt the best few pounds I’ve spent on a single purchase all year!

Written back in 1940 by this giant of advertising, still remains fresh today. In it, Young lays out his formula for producing ideas on tap. Essentially he argues that knowledge is basic to good creative thinking but that it is not enough, this knowledge must be digested and eventually emerge in the form of free, new combinations and reactions.

Here’s a breakdown of Young’s 5-step technique for producing ideas…

  1. Gather all the raw material – both of your immediate problem and materials which come from a constant enrichment of your store of knowledge.
  2. Digest the material – this is your analysis, here you work over these materials in your mind. Note down everything and anything that comes up.
  3. Get some space – now you need to do something else and let your unconscious take over. Young calls this unconscious processing.
  4. An idea emerges – your eureka moment will arrive.
  5. Open it up for review – now you need to take your idea out into the world, gain some feedback and adjust the idea the task at hand.

Yep, it’s really that simple. Give it a go, apply the technique to a challenge your facing right now and see what creative solution arrives!


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