SCAMPER Method In A Nutshell

Eighteen years later, it was adapted by psychologist Bob Eberle in his book SCAMPER: Games for Imagination Development. The SCAMPER method was first described by advertising executive Alex Osborne in 1953. The SCAMPER method is a form of creative thinking or problem solving based on evaluating ideas or groups of ideas.

Understanding the SCAMPER method

The SCAMPER method is a simple way to stimulate creative thinking through the brainstorming of ideas. It is based on the philosophy that new ideas are simply modifications or combinations of existing ideas.

To generate new ideas during the product development process, businesses must ask seven different types of questions. 

The seven questions of the SCAMPER method

The seven questions – which comprise the acronym SCAMPER – can be tackled in any order that the project team sees fit. There is no emphasis on following a sequential process.

Team leaders should also consider a wide range of creative ideas, no matter how ridiculous they initially sound.

Here is a look at each of the seven question categories:

  1. Substitute – what parts of a product or service can be substituted with something else? Are there better alternatives that will not affect the broader project? Are there substitutes and simpler and most cost-effective to produce? Team members can also be swapped out for someone with a different perspective. In the early days of McDonald’s, glass and porcelain table implements were replaced with paper and plastic to avoid dishwashing. 
  2. Combine – how can two or more parts of a product, problem, or process be combined to produce something innovative? How can certain expertise be combined?
  3. Adapt – could products or services be adapted or tweaked to improve performance? How can the product or service be made more user-friendly or attractive?
  4. Modify – what can be emphasized (or de-emphasized) in a product or problem? Are there certain components or features that could be accentuated in line with consumer demand? Indeed, which components are superfluous and should be omitted? Here, the focus should always be on creating value.
  5. Put to another use – how can a product or service be repurposed? Could it be better utilized by a different target audience? Might the consumer use a product in a way that was not intended? In 1974, McDonald’s opened the first Ronald McDonald House charity to assist children and their families dealing with cancer.
  6. Eliminate – can the product or service be simplified through the elimination of one or more aspects? Can it be made smaller, more efficient, or easier to assemble? Elimination is crucial in refining a product to the point where only the primary function remains. For example, McDonald’s chose to eliminate table service to save money on wait staff and simplify its process.
  7. Reverse/rearrange – what happens if a process is run backward? Can the pace or order of the schedule be modified? Can components be rearranged more efficiently?

Key takeaways

  • The SCAMPER method is a simple means of generating ideas to develop new products or improve existing products through brainstorming.
  • The SCAMPER method is an acronym of seven question categories. Each category can be analyzed when or as a business sees fit. There is no requirement to run through the list sequentially.
  • The SCAMPER method is a holistic approach to lateral thinking. It helps businesses consider all perspectives and make decisions most likely to encourage creativity and innovation.

Connected Business Frameworks

The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.
Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.
Starbursting is a structured brainstorming technique with a focus on question generation. Starbursting is a structured form of brainstorming allowing product teams to cover all bases during the ideation process. It utilizes a series of questions to systematically work through various aspects of product development, forcing teams to evaluate ideas based on viability.
Impact mapping is a product development technique based on user design, mind mapping, and outcome-driven planning. Impact mapping is an agile technique intended to help teams connect individual product features that can impact the user behaviors while connecting to the key, guiding metrics for the business.
The reframing matrix was first described by author Michael Morgan in his book Creating Workforce Innovation: Turning Individual Creativity into Organizational Innovation. A reframing matrix allows businesses to creatively assess problems from a variety of perspectives.
The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle was first proposed by American physicist and engineer Walter A. Shewhart in the 1920s. The PDCA cycle is a continuous process and product improvement method and an essential component of the lean manufacturing philosophy.
An after-action review (AAR) is a structured process of reflecting on the work of a group by identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. After action reviews were first utilized by the United States Army on combat missions. Since then, modern companies such as British Petroleum, Motorola, and General Electric have all become proponents. AARs are also used to identify gaps in public health emergency preparedness systems. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a searching review of the emergency response led to new methods of communicating during natural disasters.
The SQ3R method is a reading comprehension strategy that promotes enhanced learning. The SQ3R method was first proposed by educational psychologist Francis P. Robinson in his book Effective Study. The method was originally designed for college students as a more efficient and active means of absorbing textbook information. However, it is useful in any scenario where the retention of information is important. This allows the reader to learn effectively and make the best use of their time.
The HEART framework is a methodology that aims to align the focus of the product team with the customer experience. The HEART framework was initially described in a research article entitled Measuring the User Experience on a Large Scale: User-Centered Metrics for Web Applications.

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