black and white blackboard business chalkboard

If you are like me you have a million ideas, until you need one. I recently read a short book from 1939 called A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. I recommend you spend the $6 to get the book, it is less than 50 pages and can be read in less than an hour, well worth your investment.

James Webb Young first states that we need to know the principle of creating ideas, then he provides his method. His 2 principles are straightforward:

  • New ideas come from a combination of old information or elements 
  • The ability to synthesize old information or elements into new combinations is contingent on the ability to see the relationships between those pieces of information and elements
    • The ability to find relationships between a set of facts is key in coming up with new ideas

James Webb Young then dives into the method he uses to create new ideas. It is important to note that the method produces creative ideas, not just for creatives but, for all. Young’s process is tried and true.

  • Step 1: Gather Raw Materials (or partial ideas)
    • General Ideas
      • General idea generation is an ongoing process that learners do to gather information, an everyday habit lead by curiosity
      • Build a list of ideas digitally (notes app) or physically (note cards)
      • James Webb Young states that the best advertisers (of which, he was one) can be fascinated by any subject and they explored everything
    • Specific Ideas
      • Relating directly to the idea you are trying to come up with, you will go through a brainstorming process writing out ideas on sticky notes, note cards, whiteboard, or similar method
  • Step 2: Find Relationships
    • Use those unconnected ideas from Step 1 and begin to find relationships between them and pair them together
      • This is where sticky notes or note cards work wonderfully
  • Step 3: Stop and Let your Unconscious Mind Work
    • Step 3 will be hard for people who like closure. You need to take a break to reenergize your creativity and let your creative mind work unconsciously  
      • Young suggest you do activities like working out, watching TV, listening to music, reading etc.
    • Remaining in the weeds of Steps 1 and 2 will make finding the final idea hard
  • Step 4: The Idea!
    • The discovery will happen when you are not trying to force it, when you are mowing the grass, cooking, showering or the idea may even wake you up in the middle of the night
  • Step 5: Proofing the Idea
    • Bring your idea to life, does it hold up?
    • The hardest part is holding your idea too close to your chest, not all ideas are great, even if you put hard work to get there, time and honest assessment are your friends here

There is a reason this book is still being read 80 years later; it works! I am excited to use James Webb Young’s ideation strategy in the 2021 planning process with our clients and Fernweh. If you need help with ideation, we would love the opportunity to assist you.