A Technique for Getting Ideas

By James Webb Young

Prefatory Note
How It Started
The Formula Of Experience
The Pareto Theory
Combining Old Elements
Ideas Are New Combinations
The Mental Digestive Process
"Constantly Thinking About It"
The Final Stage
Some After-Thoughts


One more stage you have to pass through to complete the idea-producing process: the stage might be called the cold, gray dawn of the morning after. In this stage you have to take your little idea out into the world of reality. And when you do you usually find that it is not quite the marvelous child it seemed when you first gave birth to it. It requires a deal of patient working over to make most ideas fit the exact conditions, or the practical exigencies, under which they must work. And here is where many good ideas are lost. The idea man, like the inventor, is often not patient enough to go through with applying this adapting path of the process. But it has to be done if you are to put ideas to work in a work-a-day world. Do not make the mistake of holding your idea close to your chest at this stage. Submit it to the criticism of the judicious. When you do, a surprising thing will happen. You will find that a good idea has, as it were, self-expanding qualities. It stimulates those who see it to add to it. Thus possibilities in it which you have overlooked will come to light.

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This, then, is the whole process or method by which ideas are produced: First, the gathering of raw materials – both the materials of your immediate problem and the materials which from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge. Second, the working ,over of these materials in your mind. Third, the incubating stage, where you let something beside the conscious mind do the work of synthesis. Fourth, the actual birth of the Idea – the "Eureka! I have it'' stage. And fifth, the final shaping and development of this idea to practical usefulness.