A Technique for Producing Ideas

“Dots Square Paper” by Linnaea Mallette — CC0 Public Domain (https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/)
“Dots Square Paper” by Linnaea Mallette — CC0 Public Domain (https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/)

There is a book I was reading called “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Young. I forgot where did I first discover this book. Very slim, straightforward, and practical book.

I was trying to implement this technique myself and it was working for me. I do believe that this technique is working as long as you don’t skip every step of it.

I’m sure sometimes you stumble upon this experience when you discover new ideas while taking a shower, eating, strolling in the park, etc. That is actually the experience you will get if you follow this technique.

The premise is you just need the right principles and technique (and maybe some time) to produce great ideas.

The book starts with a solid statement that idea is a new combinations of “old things” that connected, has a relationship. The term “old thing” that the writer wrote means something in the past. Whether it is material/immaterial, physical, or idea.

Then, there is a technique for producing ideas or producing new combination from old things to form such a relationship between each thing.


  1. Gather raw information (general and specific).
  2. Read and try to understand it. Absorb as much information as you can.
  3. Forget it. Sleep or do other things.
  4. Ideas will start to come into your brain. Document it no matter it is a partial/complete result of the ideas.
  5. Implement it.

1. Gather raw information (general and specific)

You need to collect the dots, or possible dots, first. You might not know if this dot is important but if you feel the dot is related then collect it. Your brain will decide whether it is connected to the rest of the ideas or not.

This kinda makes sense step. You need to gather ingredients and tools before you can cook your dishes. You might need some effort to gather all of it but it is required to cook a splendid dishes.

2. Read all the knowledge and try to understand it

This is the step where you need to absorb as much information as you can. You might start to confuse or unmotivated because ideas don’t popped-up after reading all of this information. Be patient and don’t skip this step. You still in step two.

Most people fall back after/during this step.

I think this is the step where most people give up. They can’t bear to absorb more information because, maybe, they are impatient that why the ideas are not coming after reading such enormous information.

Just like cooking. You need to know the characteristics and information of all ingredients and tools before you can actually cook the dish.

3. Forget it

A rather anti-climatic step. But this is the step where the magic happens. When you are bloated with all the information you can absorb from step two, take a break. Take a stroll. Do other things. You can forget it and focus on other things.

Your brain will take all the information and try to connect the dot as a background process. This is also the step where you should be patient because your brain is trying to connect the dots in the background. It might require some time. Just trust your brain.

When cooking, this is the step when you need to sit back and let the stove, the oven, the gas, the heat do their stuff to the tools and ingredients.

4. Ideas will come. Document it.

You wake up from your sleep. Drink a glass of water. Then suddenly your brain comes up with some ideas. You are surprised. I was surprised also. That this is actually working.

Now you need to document these ideas. Very important because your brain might drop it.

Now you have discovered some ideas, you write that down. You keep it accessible.

I believe that these partial ideas sometimes also act as an input, the information, for building the more complex ideas later. Make your brain easier to connect the dot and easier to not forget the ideas.

If you feel that no ideas satisfy your desire you can back to step two and add more information and also re-read the information again. That might be the case when you missing the dot and the rest of the dot graph just doesn’t connect.

Now your curry is starting to boil, changing color, the meat starting to cook, you start checking things and observe.

“This might need more salt”

“Too much heat, just need a simmer”

“The meat already cooked”

“Need to add some curry powder”

You add things to your curry pot and observe again.

5. The idea is complete. You can use it.

Now you satisfied with the ideas, it’s time to implement/use it. As the previous step, you might also implement/use the ideas partially. As time goes and ideas fruit, you implement/use more ideas on top of, or adjacent, the previous ideas.

Your delicious curry is ready to serve.

I know that the result and time required may vary among peoples.

So, if you feel that you still didn’t get it, the “aha moment”, maybe that is still some works to do.

I supposed that is because:

  • Need to gather and absorb more information, back to step 1
  • Need to re-read/re-absorb the information (our brain maybe lose focus to more important things), back to step 2
  • Need to re-read the documentary of the partial ideas, back to step 2
  • Need more times as the ideas are rather complex to connect, back to step 3

Trust your brain and believe in delayed gratification.

Read it on Google Play Books (not an affiliation link): https://play.google.com/store/books/details/JamesYoung_A_Technique_for_Producing_Ideas?id=xN0-WoTbRgC

This story was originally published at https://jundialwan.id/stories/a-technique-for-producing-ideas



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Jundi Alwan

Jundi Alwan

A Polymath. Learn everyday, everywhere. Currently working with amazing team at Bahasa.ai.