James Webb Young believed there are no new ideas. All ideas people produce today are mere remixes of older innovative thoughts that have pushed humanity to progress. However, Young cultivated a thinking process that lead him to become the best copywriter alive, as David Ogilvy considered him. You can learn about it by reading his best-seller “A Technique for Producing Ideas.” We gathered some of the most interesting thoughts from the book, to open up your reading appetite and inspire you to create better marketing campaigns.
“An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements” – this is a quote by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto that laid the foundation of Young’s creative process. The memorable advertising man, whose principles still inspire marketers around the world, made the most of the “old elements” he accumulated throughout his life.
“The principle of constantly expanding your experience, both personally and vicariously, does matter tremendously in any idea-producing job. Make no mistake about that.”
“The habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.”
“What is most valuable to know is not where to look for a particular idea, but how to train the mind in the method by which ideas are produced; and how to grasp the principles which are the source of all ideas.”
“We tend to forget that words are, themselves, ideas. They might be called ideas in a state of suspended animation. When the words are mastered the ideas tend to come alive again.”
“Thus, words being symbols of ideas, we can collect ideas by collecting words. The fellow who said he tried reading the dictionary but couldn’t get the hang of the story simply missed the point: namely, that it is a collection of short stories.”
“A good idea has self-expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it.”
What Young suggests, in his method to spark creativity, is to:
Focus on our research and gather all the facts.
Study all facts and see how they connect to each other.
Let go of the desire to produce a new idea. Detach from the project and leave it to the unconscious to work on it.
At the end of this process, “the Idea will appear” says Young.
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Here are the two traits of creative people, in Young’s vision:
“Every really good creative person whom I have ever known has always had two noticeable characteristics. First, there was no subject under the sun in which he could not easily get interested — from, say, Egyptian burial customs to modern art. Every facet of life had fascination for him. Second, he was an extensive browser in all sorts of fields of information. For it is with the advertising man as with the cow: no browsing, no milk.”
James Webb Young was one of the most successful advertising men of all times. Born in 1886, near Cincinnati, he joined J. Walter Thompson in 1912 as a copywriter, producing some of the most unusual advertisements on the market. He later became vice president of the agency and helped it expand internationally.
Young published three books: “A Technique for Producing Ideas,” “The Diary of an Ad Man,” and “How to Become an Advertising Man.” He died in 1973, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.