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on November 9, 2006
I am not an advertising professional but in the profession of scientific research. Yet this book (which was written in the 1940s for advertising people) is just as relevant to my work as it is to anyone else who is a knowledge worker. This little book is one of the simplest summaries of commonsense---and articulating common sense is this book's greatest virtue. The book lays out a five step process for generating novel and not-so-novel ideas, articulating them, and giving them a life of their own. There are no examples, no case studies, just crisply articulated common-sense that you can put to immediate use. Everything that he says is stuff that you likely already know, so this is not one of those books that talks the lofty talk about "retraining your mind" and such obscure, undoable things. The idea in this book that most resonated with me was his comment that novel ideas are simply unusual connections among things that already exist and you might already know. The book takes about an hour to read from cover to cover (and I'm not even a fast reader).

Although Mr. Bernbach probably never intended this book for consumers like me in the scientific research profession, I'd bet my money that this little gem might be just as "duh" or "aha"-evoking to people in any other knowledge-intensive line of white-collar work. The only note of caution: This book was originally written in the 1940s and the gender bias ("the creative man," "he") is pervasive throughout its 48 pages.

If you are in a profession where your "wealth" is measured in intellectual output, this is some of the best seven dollars you can invest in your education. Highly recommended for anyone whose profession requires novelty, new ideas, and creativity. Buy---don't borrow--read, reread, and dog ear this little gem!
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on February 1, 2006
I have a small collection of books that I consider "private stock". These are books that I never lend and I read over and over. This book is a private stock favorite. James Young has created one of the best books I have ever read on the process of creative thinking. The technique is simple and it works. I have applied this technique to a variety of situations when I needed "outside the box" solutions and it has never failed me. "A Technique for Producing Ideas" is an extraordinary book. It is a book that will make you wonder about the power of the mind and the nature of consciousness itself.
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Very often I notice that the execution of an ad is translated as "Creativity." James Webb Young reminds us in his small book that ideas are the soul of any good ad. This book is a critical tool for any teacher who wishes to instruct his or her students in the same principle.
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VINE VOICEon November 25, 2008
There are common themes among idea producing books that cover all aspects of developing the necessary state of mind to produce valuable ideas. Young covers the basics in this book but offers little else. At best this book represents an outline of the common themes, and at worst is it a 20 page book stretched into 47 pages (very large font, small book, less than 20 lines per page - likely 15-20 pages for standard sizes).

I rate this book as a two instead of a one as it does momentarily capture the essence of idea production in the following statements:

"An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements."

"The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships."

"The habit of the mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes the highest importance of the production of ideas."

Beyond these quotes the book encompasses little else other than a three page chapter about taking action. I sincerely believe that if you understand the above quotations as well as the notion that once you have the idea, you have to actually use the idea for it to have value, then you already know everything this book has to offer.

I highly recommend much better material on the subject found in "How to Get Ideas" by Jack Foster; a book that will not disappoint you as it is laced with real world examples, applications, and exercises to produce countless ideas.
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on April 27, 2002
How to Get Ideas and other books on the subject of creative thinking are mainly just elaborations on the core thoughts laid down by James Webb Young. This is a classic read; short, pointed, and truthful. If you are in the business, you will find your hunches confirmed in simple, memorable language. The other books on the subject are very rah-rah; this book just tells it like it is. Not a self-help book, more like an instruction manual for your brain.
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on September 22, 1997
spend 2 hours to read the book and enjoy your life-time in creative journey. james webb young defines creative into 5 processes, which is the core idea behind all things
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This booklet (28 pages) was originally published in 1940 and some new material was added twenty years later. The Foreword to the edition I have (published by Waking Lion Press in 2009) was provided by William Bernbach (1911-1982), one-time chairman and CEO of what was Doyle Dane Bernbach, then renowned for many of the greatest ads in the 20th century. The booklet's author, James Webb Young (1886-1973), added a "Prefatory Note" in 1960. His first publication, How To Become An Advertising Man (1963), focuses on core concepts that every ad practitioner and copywriter should know:

o Knowledge of Propositions
o Knowledge of Markets
o Knowledge of Messages
o Knowledge of Message Carriers
o Knowledge of Trade Channels
o Knowledge of How Advertising Works
o Knowledge of The Specific Situation

Today, these core concepts continue to provide the "basics" on which all effective marketing depends when attempting to create or increase demand for the given product and/or service and multi-media advertising is without doubt advertising's most powerful resource. However, for at least the past 75 years, everything begins with a compelling idea.

In A Technique for Producing Ideas, Webb offers what he characterizes as a "simple, five-step formula anyone can use to be more creative in business and in life! " Although the process itself is indeed simple, completing it to achieve the given results is a wholly different matter. Webb's focus is on the process by which to generate ideas. "They appear just as suddenly above the surface of the mind [like a lovely atoll above the surface of a deep blue sea]; and with that same air of magic and unaccountability. But the scientist knows that the South Sea atoll is the work of countless, unseen coral builders, working below the surface of the sea." Keep in mind that Webb developed or encountered this insight decades ago.

The details of the five-step "formula are best revealed in context, within the narrative. I will suggest now, however, that (a) this booklet is by no means relevant only to advertising or even to business in general, and (b) it can help almost anyone to develop more and better ideas when seeking a solution to a problem or an answer to a question. Because Webb thinks and writes so clearly, the booklet offers the additional benefit of helping its reader to reduce (if not eliminate) all the "clutter" in the mind that accumulates relentlessly over time.
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on January 9, 2015
I will use what I learned, but at 25 pages, this book is 24 pages too long. Here's the meat:
1. Gather all the facts
2. Mix and match the facts to find new combinations that inspire an idea; keep at it until you can't any more.
3. Ignore it and go do something else.
4. Out of nowhere an idea will come.
5. Refine your idea with the help of others.
Now you don't have to read it.
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on October 20, 2004
I first read A Technique for Producing Ideas 20 years ago. Webb explains simply, effectively, and with brevity how "creativity" happens in our minds. You will develop "habits of the mind" that will stay with you for life. Really.

Anyone can be creative and everyone should read this book. It's not just for advertising people--anyone who creates (scientists, engineers, businesspeople, etc.) will become smarter and more creative.
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on October 4, 2001
without giving too much away, the "technique" is so darn commonsensical you will no doubt whack yourself on the head at the simplicity of it all
i have tried his technique and shared it with close friends and it has become (so far) a fail proof way of striking creative oil. won us a fair amount of new business.
another plus is the book so small and concise it fits in most purses and can be read cover-to-cover during your morning latte.
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