James Webb Young – A Five Step Approach to the Creative Process


66_James-Webb-YoungIn my work on the research in to the creativity and innovation processes,I came across this hitherto unheard of book by James Webb Young. James Webb Young (1886-1973) was an Executive in the advertising field in U.S.A.,and a former Vice President of J Walter Thompson who became First Chairman of The Advertising Council., developed a five-step model of the creative process and put them down in his book titled “A Technique for Producing Ideas”.This book is still relevant today, seven decades since publication.
It was happy to note that Young, too, had been a firm believer (like myself),that creativity is yet another skill that can be taught and mastered with practice. He has proposed a five step formula for being creative and to generate creative ideas which I thought would be of help to others. It is similar to the four step formula that I am teaching, but his third and fourth steps are taken together as one by me, so it is basically the same set of principles.
Young believed that anyone can become creative by following these five steps. In this book he states:“The production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; the production of ideas, too, runs an assembly line; in this production the mind follows an operative technique which can be learned and controlled, and that its effective use is just as much a matter of practice in the technique as in the effective use of any tool.”

1.Gathering raw materials
Young stresses the need of building a rich pool of mental resources which he calls“Raw Material” in the brain , from which one could build new combinations. He says that creative people get interested in almost all subjects and extensively browses all types of information from diverse fields.
2. Digesting the material
Young gives some helpful advice on how to carry out this step.
* You have to take one fact and explore it from different angles and feel for the meaning of it.James Webb Young
*Bring two facts together and see how they fit in.
*What you are seeking is a new combination of known elements that will come in a neat combination like a jig-saw puzzle.
3. Unconscious processing
Young emphasizes the importance of making absolutely “no effort of a direct nature”. What has to be done at this stage is to turn the problem over to the subconscious mind and let it work while you are asleep.
4. The “A-Ha” moment( “Eureka” moment)
Young states that everything will click in this stage,which he describes as the “seemingly serendipitous A-Ha moment.”
5.Idea meats reality
In this final stage, Young advocates subjecting the idea to the criticism of others.

Jagath Gunawardana Attorney-at-law

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