A Technique for Producing Ideas // James Webb Young

“In learning any art the important things to learn are, first, Principles, and second, Method. This is true of the art of producing ideas.” (Young, 2003:12)
” (…) An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements. (2003:15)
“(…) The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.(2003:16)


A Technique for Producing Ideas // James Webb Young

“This technique of the mind follows five steps. I am sure that you’ll recognize them individually. But the important thing is to recognize their relationship and to grasp the fact that the mind follows these five steps in a definite order (…)” (2003:20)

1- “The first of these steps is for the mind to gather it’s raw material.”(2003:20)
“Gathering raw material in a real way is not as simple as it sounds. It is such a terrible chore that we are constantly trying to dodge it. The time that ought to be spent on material gathering is spent in wool gathering. Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping to strike us. When we do that we are trying to get the mind to take the fourth step in idea producing steps while we dodge the preceding steps.
The materials which must be gathered are of two kinds: they are specific and they are general.” (2003:21)

2- “What you do is to take the different bits of material which you have gathered and feel them all over, as it were, with the tentacles of the mind. (…) You bring the facts together and see how they fit.” (2003:30-31)

3- “You drop the whole subject and put the problem out of your mind as completely as you can.” (2003:32)
” It is important to realize that this is just as definitive and just as necessary a stage in the process as the two preceding ones. What you have to do at this time, apparently, is to turn the problem over to your unconscious mind and let it work while you sleep.” (2003:32)

4- “Out of nowhere the idea will appear” (2003:34)
“This is the way ideas come: after you have stopped straining for them and have passed through a period of rest and relaxation from the search.” (2003:36)

5- “In this stage, you have to take your little new-born idea out into the world of reality. And when you do you usually find that it is not quite the marvellous child it seemed when you first gave birth to it.” (2003:38)
“Do not make the mistake of holding your idea too close to your chest at this stage. Submit it to the criticism of the judicious.” (2003:39)


It is constructive and important to identify and understand these processes and compare them to what you normally do and how to improve it. Reading through these ideas makes me more aware of the stages and mechanisms of coming up with an idea for a project.

This post is part of my MA major project bibliography.

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