James Webb Young was an American advertising executive who became First Chairman of The Advertising Council. He was inducted in the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame. The background of Young is relevant to the book in that he has had a life-time of experience in generating ideas for ads. His standpoint is to teach people how to generate ideas, and his target readership is entrepreneurs, business owners, and other reader whose life involves being creative. Methods and principles in this book need to be understood first.

Here are the two principles you must understand:

  • An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.
  • In order to bring old elements into combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.

And here are the steps or methods for generating ideas, laid out sequentially:

  1. Mind gathers raw material – specific and general material. Both the materials of your immediate problem and the materials which come from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge (general about life and events and specific about products and people). Tip – card-index method: 3×5 ruled white card, write items of specific info, classify items by sections of subject. Also have a gathering point for material.
  2. Masticate, in your mind, these materials. Jot down little tentative or partial ideas, no matter how crazy they seem.
  3. Synthesis. Make absolutely no effort of direct nature. Drop the subject out of your mind as completely as you can. Turn the problem over to your unconscious mind and let it get to work as you sleep. Turn to whatever stimulates your imagination and emotions. Listen to music, go to the theatre or movies, read poetry or a novel.
  4. Out of nowhere the idea will appear.
  5. The final shaping and development of the idea into practical usefulness.

This concise method for generating ideas is intriguing and probably works. It fortunately doesn’t require any complex processes such as the techniques put forth in the book Thinkertoys by Michalko, M. (2007).