Example: A Technique for Producing Ideas

Example: A Technique for Producing Ideas


Stuck for ideas?

  1. Buy this book.
  2. Read it. (It will take you an hour, at most.)
  3. Do the work of priming your brain.

After that, your subconscious will go to work – Sherlock Holmes' style – and will work wonders. You'll find yourself uncovering the ideas that have been eluding you for days, weeks, months.

Young's five stage model is simple, but – as he notes – requires the hard work of constantly nourishing the mind with material, as I call it: priming the brain.

The fact that so few people do the hard work of nourishing their minds – through reading, listening, watching… – is why Young is happy to give away his 'secrets', because he knows very few will do the work.

I read this book over a lunch break a decade ago and it changed my thinking. At a rough estimate, I've referenced this book in approximately half of the talks I've been invited to give at conferences.


Here are the core ideas from the book, summarised.

  • Ideas are easy.
  • To unlock an endless flow of ideas, prime the brain: read extensively, widen your frame of reference and look beyond your current discipline and prime the brain. (I wrote about this in a series of a dozen articles for The Pastry Box if you'd like to read more, start with Widen the Frame of Reference.)
  • Young’s five stage model for generating ideas is as follows:
    • Prime the brain by gathering material.
    • Metaphorically masticate this material, turning it over in your mind.
    • Walk away and allow the subconscious to work.
    • An idea materialises, usually in the shower or while out for a walk.
    • Test your idea and gather feedback.


In learning any art the important things to learn are, first, Principles; and second, Method. This is true of the art of producing ideas.

An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements. (Quoting Vilfredo Pareto.)

In advertising [or any discipline] an idea, results from a new combination of specific knowledge.

We tend to forget that words are, themselves, ideas. They might be called ideas in a state of suspended animation.

The back cover, edited…

Strikethroughs, additions and emphasis mine. —Mr Murphy

A step-by-step technique for sparking breakthrough creativity in advertising – or any creative field.

Since its publication in 1965, A Technique for Producing Ideas has helped thousands of advertising copywriters individuals from any creative discipline 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, powerful book to generate exciting ideas on demand, at any time, on any subject.

Let James Webb Young's unique insights help you look inside yourself to find that big, elusive idea – and once and for all lift the veil of mystery from the creative process.