Designing the World of Digital Experience

Producing New Ideas

How do you create new ideas?

Recently, I picked up a little book called “Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young.  Originally published in 1939, Young outlines a 5-step technique based on his experience in the early days of Advertising.

I’ve always enjoyed old books about fundamental principles of what makes us who we are – especially when it comes to understanding creativity:

  • Where do ideas come from?  
  • How can you teach and spread ideas?  
  • How do you nurture and encourage their growth?

This book echoes what I’ve often thought; that ideas are pulled from a mysterious place and brought to life through structured discipline.  Young talks about how ideas provide the soul to coummunications and “bring spirit and life” to advertistement. This creative spark brings together the other-worldly connections of our concious & unconsious mind.

The book starts out discussing the Pareto Theory – from the 1916 work of Italian sociologist Pareto in his book, Mind and Society. Pareto classified idea creators as the speculators of the world — those people that are “preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations.”
“Creativity is just connecting things.” ~ Steve Jobs

The answer is
surprisingly simple

New ideas are the combination of old ideas. Where most people see facts as separate pieces of knowledge, others see them as links in a chain of knowledge.  Understanding the interconnected relationship of things seems to be the answer to many questions.

The Five Steps

  1. Gather raw material – Specific and general knowledge.
  2. Work these materials over in your mind
  3. Incubation Stage – Let the unconscious mind synthesize
  4. Birth of the Idea – that “Ah Ha!” moment when it comes together
  5. Shape and develop the idea into practical usefulness. Then share with others and apply the feedback.

Photo by andeecollard, Under Creative Commons

So what’s next?

In the After-Thought section, Young briefly talks how words bring ideas to life.  There’s alot more here that needs to be discussed. He recommends Hayakawa’s book on semantics called Language in Thought and Action.


See Also:
David Ogilvy “Confessions of an Advertising Man
TED Video: Matt Ridley, When Ideas Have Sex

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