July's chosen book was A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. It's a very short book, but contained some useful ideas about how to come up with new ideas.
Ideation is simply the act of combining old ideas to create new ideas, writes Young. This requires the ability to see relationships between different existing ideas, and Young lays out five steps for improved ideation:
- Read all you can, in every field. You must have 'intimate' subject-matter knowledge, but general knowledge is extraordinarily useful.
- Ruminate over your knowledge. Write down any and every idea that comes to mind, however irrelevant it is.
- Stop thinking about the problem. Do something else, and let your subconscious work on the problem.
- At some point, a flash of inspiration will hit. Write it down.
- Shape, revise, refine, iterate, edit, and otherwise massage the idea until it is fit for use.
We liked some of what was presented in the book, especially the idea that you need to be familiar with broad categories of knowledge in order to find good relationships between ideas. It encourages us to be widely-read.
The idea that one must let ideas percolate in the subconscious was met with some skepticism, but most participants were able to recall a time when ideas had come to them while working on something unrelated.
A desire for advice on what to do with ideas was a common theme among reader feedback. If you know of a book suggesting how to winnow good and useful ideas from the irrelevant, please add it to our list of books to read!
Our next hangout will be on Wednesday, August 12, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time.
We'll be reading Invisibles by David Zweig.
We'll announce the hangout link and additional info on the @newsnerdbooks Twitter account as the date grows closer. We hope to see you then!