One of the best things about James Webb Young's A
Technique For Producing Ideas is that it’s around 50 (very small) pages
long. It can be read in less than an hour. So if you’re one of those
advertising people who doesn’t like to read, this is an excellent way of
dipping your illiterate toe into the vast and thrilling waters of knowledge and
First published in the 1940s, ATFPI delivers an
almost foolproof method for generating ideas. When I first read it, I was
hoping to discover some kind of magical creative formula. As it turned out,
there is a magical formula but it's almost exactly the same formula I'd always
relied on (whether for advertising or any other creative thingies I’ve been
involved in): putting things completely out of my mind and just waiting for the
idea to miraculously appear. I’d always thought that was just my own combination
of arrogance, laziness and wishful thinking.
The technique basically consists of the following five
1. Do your research.
2. Absorb the material you’ve gathered.
3. Forget about it.
4. Experience the aha! moment.
5. Work on your idea.
Naturally, if it was as easy as that you wouldn’t need to
read the book. But it’s in the actual reading that the magic really happens.
Young was a beautiful – and beautifully clear – writer. His words go in and
they stay in.
The blurb on the back cover says: ‘Young’s unique insights
will help you look inside yourself to find that big, elusive idea – and once
and for all lift the mystery from the creative process.’ Well, it certainly
does that. But there is a caveat – this formula won’t work if you’re not a
creative person. As far as Young’s concerned (taking his cue from the theories
of the Italian sociologist Pareto) there are two types of people: speculators
and stockholders. So if you’re in the latter camp, you’d probably be wasting
your time reading the book.
Available here – brand spanking new for only
£3.74. If you get nothing else from it, you’ll at least discover whether you’re
a speculator or a stockholder.