In a nutshell – A Technique for Producing Ideas

A Technique for Producing Ideas

When the mighty Drayton Bird recommends a book you can be sure of two things:

  1. It’s unlikely to have been written in the last forty years
  2. It will be worth reading

So when he mentioned A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young in a recent seminar I thought I’d check it out.

This slim volume (just 48 pages) was originally written in the 1940s. Young uses Pareto’s definitions to divide the world into two types:

  • Speculators – who are constantly preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations
  • Rentier – stakeholders. routine, steady-going, unimaginative conservatives.

Pity the poor Rentier and thank goodness we marketers are all cool Speculators.

Now having assured ourselves we are natural creators of new ideas, Young divides the task into two stages: Principles and Method.

The 2 principles of producing ideas

  1. An idea is a new combination
  2. The ability to make new combinations is enhanced by an ability to see relationships.

The 5-step method for producing ideas

  1. Gather raw material – research the product, the customer and the market as much as possible. And also, throughout life, gather information about a multitude of other subjects. Develop your general knowledge.
  2. Consider the facts from several angles. Persist and make notes.
  3. Incubate. Drop it and think about other things. Do something else you enjoy. Sleep on it.
  4. The idea will form, almost magically, from your subconscious mind which has been constantly working on it.
  5. Test, shape and improve the idea. Open it up to criticism from others until a fully formed idea appears.

And that, dear reader, is that.

It’s sensible, in its way and works, in a way.

But does it need a book – even a very short book – to explain it?

Probably not, though it’s a quick and often charming read.

But there’s certainly no need to spend six quid on it when you can get a secondhand copy for half the price.

Perhaps it’s time for a more scientific beefed up version with more jargon. A Bulletproof Neuromarketing Technique for Producing Weird Kick-Ass Ideas You Won’t Believe.

Now there’s an idea.

For someone else.