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A Technique for Producing Ideas: The simple, five-step formula anyone can use to be more creative in business and in life! Paperback – July 22, 2009
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This thing is so ridiculous I couldn't even get past the first few pages. I had sincerely hoped two things:
1. That this book was written by an old man in the 1950s.
2. That this was NOT the original design of this book, and the seller is someone who figured out how to print books, downloaded a PDF off the internet somewhere, dropped it into Microsoft Word, slapped some low res clip art on the cover, and called it a book. (Which would also explain why it's so cheap.)
Now that I've been back to this page and see that it is apparently being sold by the author, all of my hopes have been dashed against the rocks and my deceased faith in humanity is remembered only by the tears I currently shed.
On point #1:
You know that feeling when you're in the movie theater, SO into what's happening on the screen, and then someone behind you starts talking on their phone, immediately pulling you out of the movie and reminding you that you're in a theater watching something on a screen (and also that other people suck)? That's what it's like for me when I'm reading something, taking for granted that the speaker is speaking directly to me and getting all into that immersion effect—and then the speaker directly refers to me as a man.
First of all, it's hard to even GET yourself into a situation where you have to specify gender when speaking in the second person. Let's acknowledge that. I've already managed to write more words in the second person in this review—speaking to you, without specifying your gender—than James Webb Young did in this "book."
I suppose if you're already male, you probably won't mind his rampant sexism. If you're female, prepare to be angry and annoyed. I let the little gender hiccup slide once or twice before I realized the ratio of "specifying that I am a man" to "useful advice" wasn't worth continuing to read the book. Call me petty, but I can figure out my own damn techniques for producing ideas without needing to pretend I have a penis as a requirement for reading someone else's patronizing advice.
On point #2:
Okay, so keep in mind that I am a graphic designer. And while we're at it, let's remember that a teacher of a graphic design class recommended this book to his class to help with their graphicky designing.
What. The. Eff. Is going on. On this cover.
The most valuable thing I've gotten out of this book for the $4 I spent on it is to show to my friends so we can laugh heartily over one single object having ALL THE THINGS IN THE WORLD wrong with it at the same time. There is absolutely no way in hell that any sort of professional worked on this. If Webb worked in the creative industry for years, doesn't he at least have a designer friend somewhere that could have pooped out better looking excrement than this?? How did he not even learn basic design by osmosis?
For a good laugh, please view the image of the back cover, which not only features some bold, italicized red text ON TOP OF THE ORANGE HAND—(hint: you can't READ red on top of orange)—but all of it looks like it was saved as a compressed JPG about one hundred and forty times before printing.
Maybe the Kindle version is better, because even the Kindle's most offensive text settings don't look as awful as the text inside and on the cover of this book. Honestly, I could have done better than this in 10th grade.
If you want a good book to help you with the creative process, try the one that the creator of Behance wrote. It's great, it's rich, it indicates he knows how to hire a designer FFS. If you look at Webb's book for too long, I'm afraid merely gazing upon its 72dpi cover is going to rob you of brain cells and visual taste. God help you if the ideas he helps you produce look anything like this grade school Photoshop reject.
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.
According to Webb there are two principles that are the source of ideas and then a method by which ideas are produced. The first principle is that an idea is a new combination of old elements. The second is that a person’s capacity to create these new combinations of old elements depends on his ability to see relationships – making the habit of mind to search for relationships between facts an important and trainable aspect in the production of new ideas.
Further, the technique to generate ideas follows five distinct steps in a definite order. 1) The first step is to gather the information that makes up the raw material for the idea. The material is of two kinds, the specific and the general. The specific material concerns the particular facts on the topic at hand. In advertising it could be facts on the product, the target customers etc. The general material is the vast databank of information on the world that is needed to come up with the elements that combined produce a new idea. To be able to generate creative ideas a person needs to be curious of the world and constantly browse and make the cumbersome effort to add interesting concepts of life and events to his databank. The more facts of seemingly little practical use that are stored the more new combinations are possible and the easier to generate ideas. A person should always try to enrich his store of general knowledge.
2) The next step is to chew the material, analyze it, break it down into pieces, look at it from different angles and try to understand the problem you are going to solve. In this stage you are seeking a synthesis to make up that new combination that will be your idea. It’s important to be open-minded and take notes of all the partial thoughts and ideas that come up. 3) The next stage is counter-intuitively to drop the issue and turn the problem over to your unconscious. A tired mind under stress will not be as creative as one that is relaxed and stimulated. Hence, listen to music, take a walk with your wife, go to the movies and let the mind digest the issue you are trying to solve.
4) Hopefully, but not inevitably as people differ in creative ability, in the forth step an idea will appear as from nowhere perhaps when in the shower, when you are half awake in the morning etc. Be sure to write it down immediately. 5) In the last stage the idea has to be tested with other persons. Submit it to criticism and let others improve on it and add qualities that might have been overlooked. This will develop the idea to be of practical use.
This is the whole method and according to the reactions Webb has received from readers over the years it works. Now, Webb’s book is very short and as such adds almost no additional depth to the method beyond what’s been included in this review. On the one hand the book delivers on its aim in a believable and persuasive way. It also interestingly ties in to Charlie Munger’s concept of storing a number of “mental models” of the world. On the other hand its contents could easily be summarized on one power-point slide without missing much level of detail.
Save your money and simply print this review.
This is a review by investingbythebooks.com
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