We all know and love good ol’ brainstorming (or maybe we don’t… read more about my on-again-off-again relationship with brainstorming, just click here), and – when done correctly – it can bring amazing results. But brainstorming is not the only technique to produce ideas and inspire ideation. Moreover, sometimes using brainstorming only can halt the creative mind of a team and block people from inventing new ideas, but it will put them on one track – many times, after a three-minute session of standard brainstorming and reading the ideas, participants can feel tired from seeing all the same answer over again. So if you or your team gets stuck, loses inspiration and drive – it’s certainly time to shake things up and SCAMPER over the hurdles!
First proposed by Alex Osborn, the advertising executive guy behind brainstorming, and was later developed by Bob Eberle (you can read his introduction and explanation to this technique in the Journal of Creative Behavior, here: “Developing Imagination Through Scamper“). SCAMPER is a lateral thinking method that challenges the status quo, offers a way to detach your mind from the current state when the creative juices are not flowing. As a result of such a situation, that especially can happen towards the end of a traditional brainstorming session, people usually feel deflated, unmotivated, and lose the sense of why they ideation (as quite possibly, no one has any imagination to add new post-its to the board, so why bother).
With a few pointers, SCAMPER forces our brains to make new associations or look at the problem from a new point of view. To make it easier, it’s presented as an acronym to help you adopt different standpoints and move the discussion forward.
As mentioned, SCAMPER is an acronym of the words that suggest other uses/applications of your product/service/process/other – easier to remember each of the actions! Following the words (in no particular order) will spark new ideas and unlock parts of your creativity by forcing your brain and memory to work on the basis of associations. Looking at your product thought the words included in SCAMPER is easy and can produce powerful results. OK, so what are those magical words?
S is for SUBSTITUTE
- What elements of this product or service can we SUBSTITUTE?
- What can we SUBSTITUTE for a cheaper material?
- How can we SUBSTITUTE the rules we follow?
- Can I SUBSTITUTE the shape for another one?
- Can I use my product to SUBSTITUTE something somewhere else?
C is for COMBINE
- What materials can we COMBINE for a new result?
- What happens if we COMBINE our product with something that already exists?
- What can we COMBINE it with to lower the production costs?
- How can we COMBINE our product with different colors?
- Why would we COMBINE with something else?
A is for ADAPT
- How can we ADAPT our product to follow the newest ecology “rules”?
- How do other manufactures ADAPT to the market?
- What processes could we ADAPT for efficiency and speed?
- Can I ADAPT the product to better fit the target group?
- In what way can we ADAPT our product in order to make this result?
M is for MAGNIFY/MINIFY or MODIFY
- How can we MAGNIFY the positive impact our product can have on society?
- Can we MAGNIFY or MINIFY the buttons, the screen, the message?
- How can we MODIFY the costs to be lower?
- Why would we MODIFY our product to fit the market?
- How can we MINIFY the amount of plastic used in production?
P is PUT TO ANOTHER USE
- How can kids/people with disabilities/other cultures PUT our product to ANOTHER USE?
- How can we PUT our product to ANOTHER USE in other fields of business?
- Can our product be PUT TO ANOTHER USE by the same target group?
- Can we PUT only some part of our product TO ANOTHER USE?
- How can we PUT the same rules or process TO ANOTHER USE with other teams?
E is for ELIMINATE
- What parts of our products can we ELIMINATE to make it cheaper/smaller/reusable?
- Can we ELIMINATE the time needed to create our product?
- What would happen if we ELIMINATED a component/team completely?
- What can be ELIMINATED without changing the purpose of the product?
- Should add something we ELIMINATED?
R is for REARRANGE or REVERS
- Can we REARRANGE the steps within the process to get more efficient/faster?
- Should we REVERSE to the old way of doing things?
- How can we REARRANGE the parts to fit better, make our product smaller?
- Can we REARRANGE how we obtain materials or sum up costs?
- Can we REARRANGE the components of the process/product/system?
HOW TO USE SCAMPER?
Before you turn to SCAMPER, make sure to take a break from whatever other technique or exercise you were just doing. Go for a beverage of choice, take a short walk, or have a conversation about some silly subject. Make sure you leave the other ideas as far behind as you can! Then, get all the SCAMPER letters handy, and you’re all set!
Decided on the time you’d like to spend on each word – say, 3 minutes. Look at your product and start asking the guiding questions! They will automatically sparkle some answers – they might not be bull’s eye from the start, but within those three minutes, you will notice that you get better and better! You’ll start coming up with your own guiding questions, which is awesome, and very rewarding!
Let yourself be led by the inspiration that comes – word by word, SCAMPER will move you through various – frequently unobvious – angels and one of them, one answer, might just be the one! Mind that you can use SCAMPER in a team setting, have a healthy conversation; or you can have your own thinking session, in silence, without outside influences – works wonders either way.
Below is a handy handout, lol, that includes the aforementioned guiding questions, as well as some space for your notes!
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU
You don’t have to use SCAMPER if you feel like you’re cool with ideation. But, as we established somewhere else on my blog – in case of problem-solving, quantity trumps quality at the stage of ideation (yes, read about quality versus quantity, just click here)! It’s worth to keep it in your pocket and whip it out when the ideas stop tricking. Adding a new perspective and looking at things through new “glasses” helps create new links between already existing content, inspiring new images. And, what is not offered in classic brainstorming, SCAMPER helps to create those with a starting point in mind – as it offers words to start building your new associations. Definitely a good tool for any facilitator and creative thinker!