In 1939 James Webb Young published A Technique for Producing Ideas. He posits a five step creative process which is underpinned by two key principles.
The first [principle is] that an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.
The second important principle involved is that the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships. Here, I suspect, is where minds differ to the greatest degree when it comes to the production of ideas. To some minds each fact is a separate bit of knowledge. To others it is a link in a chain of knowledge. It has relationships and similarities. It is not so much a fact as it is an illustration of a general law applying to a whole series of facts.
Consequently the habit of mind which leads to a search for relationships between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas.
James L. Adams explores this combinatorial approach when he outlines the block to creativity: No Appetite for Chaos. If we have such a low appetite for the messiness and uncertainty of creativity…
The process of bringing widely disparate thoughts together cannot work too well because your mind is not going to allow widely disparate thoughts to coexist long enough to combine.
Find out more about James Webb Young’s approach in the Brainpickings article below.