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A Technique for Producing Ideas

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,642 ratings  ·  175 reviews
A step-by-step technique for sparking breakthrough creativity in advertising--or any field

Since its publication in 1965, A Technique for Producing Ideas has helped thousands of advertising copywriters smash through internal barriers to unleash their creativity. Professionals from poets and painters to scientists and engineers have also used the techniques in this concise,
Paperback, 64 pages
Published February 11th 2003 by McGraw-Hill Education (first published 1940)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,642 ratings  ·  175 reviews

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Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, non_fiction
The basic argument of this book is very simple: "ideas" are new combinations of old elements— facts, images, etc.— and that a creative person is one who is readily able to see relationships between such elements and so find new ways of combining them. The "technique" Young describes is also very simple, and rather common-sense: learn as much as you can, both about the specific thing you are working on and the world in general (because more facts in your head equals more possible relationships an ...more
Aug 11, 2011 added it
I don't believe you could spend thirty more productive minutes if you lived to be 100 years old. This book was initially developed for and by advertising minds who often believe they have sole claim to practical creativity. This method is applicable to creativity and problem solving in virtually every situation. Describing five simple steps, James Webb Young has crafted an easy-to learn, simple process that you can apply to spark creativity. You will have to put in some effort, and some of that ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short book with a big idea--that's it's possible to follow a step by step process in generating and developing ideas. Young is an advertiser, and the book is aimed primarily at advertisers, but it's useful for anyone in a creative field who wants to focus on the process of coming up with ideas.

The process is five-step: 1)gather material for ideas; 2) chew on the material to look at relationships; 3)put everything aside to let the material percolate; 4) wait for the idea to come up; 5) fit the
Magdalene Lim
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Magdalene by: Carrie Lee
Good to have/read.

My favourite part of the book or booklet (because it's so short) is the suggestion to get "those little 3 x 5 ruled white cards and use them to write down the items of specific information as you gather them. If you do this, one item to a card, after a while you can begin to classify them by sections of your subject."

I also liked his likening of ideas to atolls (works for icebergs too but atolls sound cuter), where you only see only the brilliant idea at the top but not the str
Christopher San Filippo
Apr 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Possibly one of the best books I've ever read. You can finish this in one sitting, but most likely you will have to get up and start writing down all the ideas that start running through your mind. If you liked this book, you can find more good info about the notecard system here:
Mubarak Dawood
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
it was a fun quick read .. it helped me figure out the process of finding ideas .. and ever since my creativity process is much faster
Graeme Roberts
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Do you wish that authors would stop padding their stories and ideas with unnecessary bumpf? That lovely word originated in WWII when English soldiers were overwhelmed with unnecessary printed materials, and used them as toilet paper or "bum fodder." Even excellent and important books would be unarguably better in a slim volume, rather than a massive tome.

A Technique for Producing Ideas, supremely bumpf-free, is just such a volume, elegant and beautiful in its simplicity, and profoundly true. Ja
محمد حمزة
*Idea: a new combination of old elements*

Five PRACTICAL steps:

1) Gathering of raw materials - both the materials of your immediate problem and the materials which from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge.

2) Working over of these materials in your mind.

3) Incubating stage, let something beside the conscious mind do the work of synthesis.

4) The actual birth of the idea, "I have it" stage.

5) Final shaping and development of this idea to practical usefulness.

A practical classic
Sindre Aspaas
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's pretty rare for a book to combine exactly the right length with exactly the right amount of elaboration. This does just that. It's short, precise and to the point, without skipping any necessary details. It's also written in that earlier U.S. style that has since been abandoned, but combines the modern crispness of writing with a more sophisticated breadth of references than you'll find in some boring modern business book which inevitably includes stories about Steve Jobs and implausible co ...more
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amir-massoud by: Scientists, Writers, etc
Shelves: humanities
A very short and concise book on how to produce ideas. One can even consider it as a long article.
The author talks about two main principles behind generating new ideas ( (a) an idea is a combination of old components, and (b) the capacity to bring old elements to a new one depends on the ability to see relationships) and introduces five methods to achieve that.
Those methods are not surprising. You probably heard about them and may even perform some of them regularly. What *might* be different f
Laura Thomas Boren
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Short and incredibly to the point. Loved it. I took a course in creativity at UCLA which was 10 weeks long and frankly, this book encapsulated the 10-week course well.

I've posted on amazon a review but basically where I think people have issues with this is in the incubation phase - we have a hard time just letting go and "allowing" good ideas to come to us. I know I struggle with this part, and I know I'm not alone.

But when I can let go, I'm amazed and it's always a situation of taking the show
Dan Martin
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have now read this book twice (not that hard as it's about a thirty minute read). Like Paul Arden's book "It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be", I found this book to be incredibly inspiring for the creative process. Also, I find it serendipitous that in this week that I've devoted to "Filling The Well" (something I do quite often in my quest for inspiration via the spark that museums, movies, books, galleries, etc. almost always provide) I stumble upon a book that is exactly ...more
Olivier Goetgeluck
Mar 19, 2014 rated it liked it
"An idea is nothing more than a new combination of old elements."

Five steps to producing ideas:
1. read/watch/absorb wide variety of subjects (both general and specific to your subject)
2. think about the stuff you read about
3. stop thinking about it all for a while; let it all marinate subconsciously
4. idea! (write em all down, even if you think they're shit or too abstract)
5. do work

Don't read about advertising, read about social sciences/psychology.
Jan 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Quick, simple, and short read. I suggest everyone take half an hour to an hour to read through this book, especially if you're interested in the creative minds' process. Challenging yourself to think like this could create some really unique ideas.
két con
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mad-men
You remember how Sherlock Holmes used to stop right in the middle of it case, and drag Watson off to a concert?
That was a very irritating procedure to the practical and literal-minded Watson.
But Conan Doyle was a creator and knew the creative process.
Rasha Alduwisi
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A simple 5 step plan to generate new ideas. It's nice to believe that there's a method to finding the perfect solution to any creative problem, and although it's not that simple, but this method is tried and tested and proven to be the best.
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
The advertising classic. You can read it in an hour. It is still insanely useful and valuable. A must read for all creatives.
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Words being symbols of ideas, we can collect ideas by collecting words."
In his last year as an advertising agency executive, James Webb Young was taking an apparently urgent meeting with a client at a well-known magazine. It turned out that the magazine had decided that their future strategy should be to “sell ideas”. However, after that they got stuck and now they turned to Webb with the question: “You have produced a lot of advertising ideas. Just how do you get them? The boys are waiting for me to come back to tell them.” Totally unprepared for the topic at hand ...more
Mustafa Shaqdih
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting read, Ideas are just new combinations of old elements, and the ability to see relationships between these old elements determines your ability to produce ideas.

to produce an idea you have to go through five stages, the first stage is “ raw material gathering” which means gathering specific and general knowledge, specific knowledge is collected by studying, comparing and finding differences while the general knowledge is just to be interested in general subjects or discussions that co
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, self-help
This is the process we all go through to come up with ideas, but it's nice to have it laid out into more formal steps. Here they are:

1. Gather raw material, both specific and general.
a. Specific: Intimate knowledge of product and consumer. Go deep to figure out the differences.
b. General: Read widely. Be interested in knowing a little about a lot of different topics.

2. Constantly think about the idea.
a. Work over the materials in your mind.
b. Turn them this way and that.
c. Work toward pa
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nothing about this book will blow your mind, and for many people that will be a disappointment. It simply lays out five simple steps for generating ideas—steps that sound more like work than wizardry.

Most of the steps are so obvious that it's tempting to dismiss them, and it is because the steps are so easily dismissed that good ideas are rare. Most people can't consistently generate great ideas precisely because they attempt to skip one or more of the steps—or they overlook them altogether.

Miranda (M.E.) Brumbaugh
If you are trying to figure out how to stimulate your creative side and come up with solutions to difficult, near impossible problems, then this method is beneficial. In "Einstein" by Walter Isaacson, Einstein did the same thing as Young suggests, spending deep focus on a problem that needs solved, then taking regular walks to relax his mind, after which the answer would pop up in his mind. I personally didn't learn anything new by reading Young's book, given I've heard of and practice this met ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a very thin book and wouldn't hurt to spend a few hours to read it. Simple, clear about the five steps of producing idea. Needs to be applied into practice though. I think it would be better if Young can provide more specific examples of successful advertising ideas. And one thing is that I can't find detailed story about Young's successful advertisement work online? Is it because it's too long ago?
Christopher Okolo
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Five very natural and organic techniques to generate ideas. The first one 'gathering information,' I think, is the most crucial of all because it requires 'accurate thinking' and 'controlled attention' as profiled in Laws of success by Napoleon Hill.

To accomplish this step, extensive and in depth reading is required, and of all skill going extinct, reading is at the top. No wonder very few leaders have ideas to succeed in their positions!
Metin Akın
Yet another "meh-like" book. I believe that author is very experienced ad-man for decades but he unfortunately, doesn't show his talent through the book; also he confess that in the first pages as well. This is like a initial book of ad-industry to make a generic way of producing ideas which may not work in current circumstances.
Pierre Stanley Jn baptiste
Short and Practical

An easy read that teaches the art of coming up with ideas. It takes some mental work to dive fully into the concepts and not just read the words. The Index-card method is my favorite. I’ve heard that Robert Green and Ryan Holiday use it for generating ideas for their books.
Rhys Powell
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This isnt ground break and most people will know that this is the wany they generally come up with ideas.

What it is good at doing is really making clear the steps that people need to/will go through when coming up with ideas.

The most important part, that is certainly emphasized, is the general knowledge and learning thats required
Mehmet Ortaç
45 dakika gibi kısa bir sürede bitirdim. İnce bir kitap. Yazıldığı tarihe bakıldığı zaman biraz geri kalmış. Aslında bizim kuşağın genel olarak bildiği fikir bulma tekniklerinden bahsediyor. Ancak bu konuda daha önce hiç bilgi sahibi olmayan için faydalı bir kitap.
Mike Ncube
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: productivity
Finished this in under an hour and definitely the shortest book I’ve read. Actually, it feels more like an article than a book - only 36 pages. However, the idea producing concept is great and it feels like much more could have been written on the subject.
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James Webb Young (1886-1973) was an American advertising executive who became First Chairman of The Advertising Council.

He was inducted in the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.

Young received many honors and awards including the Advertising Man of the Year Award in 1946.
“An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements (Quoted from Vilfredo Pareto)” 4 likes
“We tend to forget that words are, themselves, ideas. They might be called ideas in a state of suspended animation. When the words are mastered the ideas tend to come alive again.” 3 likes
More quotes…