A Technique for Producing Ideas

a-technique-for-producing-ideas

A Technique for Producing Ideas

by James Webb Young

This concise booklet was first published in the 1940s by James Webb Young, who became vice president of the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson and the first chairman of The Advertising Council. He wrote it in response to the question, “How do you get ideas?”

Before explaining the process, Young presents two principles. Continue reading “A Technique for Producing Ideas”

Steal Like an Artist

steal-like-an-artist

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon writes, “All advice in autobiographical… This book is me talking to a previous version of myself… These ideas apply to anyone who’s trying to inject some creativity into their life and their work. (That should describe all of us.)” The book is thoughtfully written and designed in a creative six-inch by six-inch format.

The idea behind stealing like an artist is that “nothing is completely original… All creative work builds on what came before… If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” Continue reading “Steal Like an Artist”

The Myths of Creativity

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The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas

by David Burkus

“Creativity is the starting point for all innovation, and most organizations rely on innovation to create a competitive advantage.” In this interesting book, management professor David Burkus debunks 10 myths of creativity, citing academic research and examples from business. Continue reading “The Myths of Creativity”

Six Thinking Hats

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Six Thinking Hats

by Edward de Bono, M.D.

The Six Thinking Hats offers “an alternative to the argument system, which was never intended to be constructive or creative.” The emphasis is on “how we design a way forward—not on who is right and who is wrong.”

A major benefit is time savings. De Bono claims that ABB reduced their multinational project team discussions from 21 days to two days using the Six Hats method. “In the United States, managers spend nearly 40 percent of their time in meetings… Instead of rambling, ego-driven meetings, meetings are now constructive, productive, and much faster.” Continue reading “Six Thinking Hats”

The Power of Nice

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The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness

by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

You may not be familiar with the authors’ names, but you are probably familiar with their work. They are the founding partners of the advertising agency responsible for the Aflac duck campaign.  One of them wrote the “I want to be a Toys R Us Kid” jingle earlier in her career.

Their message is that being nice (but not phony) in personal and professional encounters builds goodwill, which can lead to big and small rewards.  Many examples are included in the book. Continue reading “The Power of Nice”

Rodin on Art and Artists

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Rodin on Art and Artists

Conversations with Paul Gsell. Translated by Romilly Fedden.

Paul Gsell asked Auguste Rodin questions about his creative process and about art in general.  This book is, for the most part, a transcript of those conversations.

Rodin’s favorite subject was the human figure. “Beauty is character and expression. Well, there is nothing in nature which has more character than the human body… The human body is, above all, the mirror of the soul, and from the soul comes its greatest beauty.” Continue reading “Rodin on Art and Artists”

The Innovator’s Dilemma

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The Innovator’s Dilemma

by Clayton Christensen

Why have many once market-leading companies failed to stay relevant?  It would be easy to assume that they had stagnant engineers or complacent management, but Clayton Christensen concludes otherwise: “Because they carefully studied market trends and systematically allocated investment capital to innovations that promised the best returns, they lost their positions of leadership.”

How is that possible? The key is to understand the distinction between sustaining and disruptive innovation.  Large companies are good are sustaining innovation—product improvements demanded by existing customers. Continue reading “The Innovator’s Dilemma”

The Laws of Simplicity

The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

by John Maeda

Complex systems and information overload can drive us crazy. John Maeda explains the remedy. “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.” The ten laws of simplicity are:

  • Reduce – The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction
  • Organize – Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
  • Time – Savings in time feel like simplicity.
  • Learn – Knowledge makes everything simpler.
  • Differences – Simplicity and complexity need each other.
  • Context – What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
  • Emotion – More emotions are better than less.
  • Trust – In Simplicity we trust.
  • Failure – Some things can never be made simple.
  • The One – Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

Here’s my favorite line in the book: “While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.” I think this thought applies to graphic design, product design, and even process design.

John Maeda is a graphic designer and computer scientist. He wrote this book while he was a professor at MIT Media Lab. Subsequently he was president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).


Maeda, John. The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT, 2006. Buy from Amazon.com