A Technique for Producing Ideas—Review           

James Webb Young was a legendary advertising executive whose career began early in the 20th century. He was the author of three books,

James W. Young Master Copywriter

James W. Young Master Copywriter

Diary of an Ad Man, How to Become an Advertising Man (both out of print), and A Technique for Producing Ideas.

His last book is considered one of the greats for helping business owners develop creative ideas. In fact, the book was chosen by copywriting legend Bob Bly as a recent featured book at the American Writers and Artists Great Books Club.

In this short, easily read book, Mr. Young gives the reader a 5-step formula to train the mind to develop creative thought. Simply put, his five steps are:

  1. Gather raw materials.
  2. Work out those materials in your mind.
  3. The incubating stage.
  4. The actual birth of the idea.
  5. The final shaping and development of the idea to usefulness.

The genesis for James Young’s book came from a discussion he’d had with a magazine sales manager  who asked HOW Young came up with creative ideas for the  ad campaigns he was famous for producing. The question got James thinking about the process he’d used naturally for his many years in advertising.

After much thought, Young wrote a brief book, A Technique for Producing Ideas, that goes into detail about each of the five steps he’d used to train and cultivate his mind to be more creative.  Young mentions each step will appear familiar, it is the development of each step and their relationship that make this method work.

1. Gather Raw Materials: In today’s parlance we’d use the term research. Interestingly, Young points out when faced with the need to develop a creative idea, one needs both specific and general raw material.

Specific materials are pretty much self explanatory. If writing copy for a new financial newsletter, for example, specific materials will include information about the prospect and product.

General materials, however, are those found in the natural curiosity of the individual, or in this case the copywriter. A natural curiosity about general subjects helps us correlate between the specific of the assignment and the world in general.

2. Working Out Those Materials in Your Head: James Young explains this step takes place,”…entirely inside your head.” It’s using conscious thought to stimulate the unconscious creative process. It’s at this point where you’ll reach a “hopeless stage” and it’s time to move to the next stage.

3. The Incubating Stage: In this stage it’s time to put everything away and make no direct thought toward your quest. Take a hike, take a shower, take a nap…do something to get your conscious mind off your problem.

4. The Actual Birth of the Idea: Copywriting great Paul Hollingshead says most of his Big Ideas come to him in this step, while he’s in the shower—whatever it takes! In James Young’s words, “Out of nowhere the Idea will appear.

5. The Final Shaping and Developing of the Idea to Its Usefulness: The idea has popped into your consciousness but it’s probably a fairly raw idea and will need to be tweaked a bit before it’s ready for prime time. This is the purpose of step 5.

Five steps to get your creative juices flowing and produce ideas for your business. I enjoyed this short, but superb book and highly recommend it to any business owner struggling with bringing ideas to fruition. Take an hour or so out of your day, read the book then put these 5 steps to work and you’ll be far and away ahead of your peers.

Here’s to your success!

Have you read James W. Young’s book? Please comment and share below!

Keith is the resident writer and troublemaker at Empowered Pros.
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