There are many tools you can use to generate ideas such as brainstorming. Every innovator runs into walls where they know there are better ideas out there but can't seem to get a grasp on what they is. SCAMPER is one of those tools that has always come in handy for me when I want to dig deeper and find that idea that is truly game changing.
So what is SCAMPER?
SCAMPER is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put To Other Uses and Reverse. SCAMPER was developed by Alex Osborne in 1953, and was further developed by Bob Elerle in 1971. Its probably one of the most widely used tools to help generate more and better ideas.
How Do You Apply SCAMPER?
For each of the elements, ask yourself a series of questions and then capture the ideas that come to you. Then take those new ideas and rank them so you can focus on the very best. I've found that when I use SCAMPER, I always seem to come up with ideas that are much better than the one I started with.
Think about replacing part of a product or service with something else. By looking for a replacement, you can come up with a set of new ideas. Things that can be substituted include; parts, products, services and people.
- Can I replace or change any of the parts?
- Can I replace someone involved with the product or service?
- Can the rules (rule of the industry, rules of the company, regulatory) be changed?
- Can I use other ingredients or materials?
- Can I change its color, texture, sound, smell or taste?
- Can I substitute one part of another?
- Can I change the emotion or attitude to the product or service?
Thinks about adapting an idea that already exists to solve your problem or opportunity. Most innovations are created based on adapting something already in use by others.
- What parts of an existing product or service could I adapt to solve my problem?
- What historical solution could I learn from?
- Who's solution could I emulate?
- What ideas from others could I incorporate into my solution?
- What processes could I adapt to my idea?
- What ideas from outside my industry could I incorporate?
Think about changing all or part of the current problem/ideas, or distort it a unique and unanticipated way.
- How can I make my ideas bigger, smaller, thinner, thicker, stronger or lighter?
- Can I change the shape in a unique way?
- Can I make the idea exaggerated or overstated? (make it VERY expensive)
Put To Other Uses
Think about how you might be able to use your idea to address other uses. Or think of ways to reuse someone else product or service to solve your problem. Many ideas go from being a good idea to one that is game-changing when the idea is used ways never anticipated.
- What else can my idea be used for?
- Can it be used by customers other than those it was originally intended for?
- Are there other possible uses its it's modified?
Think of what might happen if you simplified, reduced or eliminated components of your idea. Through constant simplification, you will get to the base essence of the idea and reveal that core function.
- How can I simplify my idea?
- What parts can I remove without altering the function/benefit of the idea?
- Can the rules that I operate under be eliminated?
- What features can I eliminate while still delivering the benefit?
Think about what you would do if part of idea worked in reverse or were done in a different order.
- Can I interchange components that make up the idea?
- Are there other patterns, layouts or sequences I can use?
- Should I turn it around? Up instead of down? Down instead of up?
- What if I ran my process backwards?
- What if I did the exact opposite of what I originally intended?