Hackernoon logoLearn Idea Generation Using SCAMPER by@aditi_syal

Learn Idea Generation Using SCAMPER

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Aditi Hacker Noon profile picture

@aditi_syalAditi

Copywriter at Concurate.

Lead image courtesy of ColiN00B on Pixabay.

You need not be a natural at coming up with innovations; asking the right questions can help you come up with innovative ideas. Innovation is a result of brain tinkering and relentless questioning for idea generation. Also beneficial is a mix of past learnings and networking.

Had Steve Jobs not questioned the need for a computer’s fan, whose noise was distracting, he would not have created quiet and small Apple computers. Alongside, he questioned how to use typography and the beautiful overlapping windows of Xerox computers with icons and menus. That led to Apple Macintosh GUI and its trademark: the fonts.

To innovate and generate ideas, you need to think differently like Jobs. And questioning the status quo with brainstorming techniques are a huge aid to ideate. SCAMPER is one such idea generation technique.

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What is the SCAMPER Technique?

Bob Eberle first discussed the SCAMPER technique in his book ‘SCAMPER: Games for Imagination Development’ in 1971. The book was aimed at developing creative thinking in students and children. Coincidently, businesses have benefited from this technique leaps and bounds.

SCAMPER is an acronym derived from 7 brain tinkering methods: 

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt 
  • Modify
  • Put to another use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse
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Under each method, you ask questions about your existing product, idea or problem. You come up with answers and then identify the most promising solution from various stand points like feasibility, budget, benefits etc.

How To Generate Ideas Using SCAMPER Technique?

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple, learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” – John Steinbeck, author, Nobel Prize laureate.

Like the above quote, SCAMPER does the same to your ideas. You can multiply 1 vague thought into many.

How?

#1 Choose an Idea

Choose one of the existing products, services, or processes in your business context. This step serves you to have a starting point. Your chosen idea can catalyze something tangible for future development.

Pro Tip: No idea is stupid. Don’t discard an opinion yet.

#2 Ask Questions Under Each Method

Pick 1 of the 7 methods randomly. Now answer each of the questions mentioned under each of the seven techniques. Use more than one method if possible.

#3 Answer the Questions

Your answers should focus on one or more of these business aspects: benefits, revenue, costing, quantity, quality, process, frequency, and user experience. After all, the idea should be profitable to the users and the innovators.

#4 Pick What Stands Out

Analyze all the answers and look at what stands out. Does any of the results solve an existing problem even if it’s niched? Has one of the results got an answer for your problem? However small, if any of the solutions offers new benefits, it can culminate into a beautiful innovation.

Had the pair of stringed paper cups not been given the due pondering, Graham Bell wouldn’t have been able to invent the telephone. So, even if your idea looks like a heap of empty paper cups, it could be worth every penny in the future.

Let’s understand SCAMPER with some praise-worthy innovations of the 21st century.

#5 Don’t Forget to Capture the Ideas

Ideas have a tendency to vanish, won’t you agree? It’s better to use some idea management platforms where you can record as well as revisit ideas as and when needed. And if the idea management tool allows for collaboration with fellow team members, nothing like it! There are many other benefits that an idea management software  can provide to your business.

Substitute

Substitution is about replacing a part of a product or a step in the process with something more beneficial. And you may get a shiny new idea in your hands.

Questions To Ask To Generate Ideas For Substitution:

  • What ingredient / material / part can you substitute in a product?
  • Which step of a process can you substitute and with what?
  • Can you substitute people / time / place / things?
  • Can you replace one energy / power source with another?
  • What technology can you replace in a process?
  • Can you replace the color or texture of the product?
  • Can you change the name / smell / sound to make it better?

Example: 

To manufacture super warm ultra-light apparels OROS substituted goose feathers with aerogels. Goose feathers made the apparels fluffy and bulky. Aerogels are nearly weightless, extremely warm, and barely-there.  OROS jackets keep you warm even under a storm of liquid nitrogen (-321°F / -196°C).

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Aerogels are one of the most fascinating materials that exist on earth today. There are many more innovations happening in the aerogel industry. It’s a must explore territory.

Combine

When you combine, you merge one ingredient / process with another to get better results.

Questions To Ask To Generate Ideas While Combining:

  • What ingredients can you combine to get better results?
  • Can you combine 2 or more processes?
  • Can you combine the steps of a process?
  • Can you combine 2 or more features?
  • Can you merge people / teams / companies?
  • What ideas can be merged?
  • Can you combine technologies?

Example:

Flare combined bracelets with Bluetooth technology to send SOS signals. The Flare bracelets keep the wearer safe by sending an SOS secretly and instantly at the press of a hidden button without the phone’s assistance. The bracelet sends an emergency text and the wearer’s GPS location to 911.

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Adapt

In this method, you adapt an existing idea / process to make something better out of your solution.

Questions To Ask To Generate Ideas For Adaptation:

  • Can you adapt an old process / technology / part?
  • What successful solutions inspire you to handle your problem?
  • Can you adapt the existing product to use a new process or technology?
  • Can you employ a known process to improve the speed or results?
  • Can you use an already working idea to solve your problem?
  • How can you make the process flexible?
  • What ideas outside your product’s context can you adapt?

Example:

Virti was initially created to train medical professionals using mixed reality. But during the pandemic, Virti adapted the platform to train frontline workers. The platform taught them how to wear the PPE kits right, administer a critical patient, correct treatments and medicines, etc. The company had been successful in mitigating the chronic shortage of doctors in Africa.

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Modify (Magnify Or Minify)

Modify method aims at changing the looks of a product or functioning of a process by magnifying or minimizing some features without affecting the benefits.

Questions To Ask To Generate Ideas For Modification:

  • Can you magnify or minify the quantity of your product?
  • Can you modify the looks, texture, color, shape, and size?
  • How can you modify the strength and life of your product?
  • Can you modify the process for a better outcome?
  • Can you change the frequency for improvement?
  • Can you add extra features?

Example:

Gogol Mogol modified the way an egg is packaged and boiled without water and external heat. This container-cum-cooker is made of recycled cardboard. Underneath is a chemical layer that gets activated when a tag is pulled, triggering a chemical reaction. And within a couple of minutes, you get a boiled egg.

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Put to another use

Put to another use means using an idea or a product in a new way like it was never imagined in the beginning.

Questions To Ask When You Put An Idea To Another Use:

  • Can you use your product differently?
  • Can you target another market segment for the product?
  • Can you recycle the byproducts of a process?
  • Does your idea have an unexplored use?
  • Who else might use your solution or process?
  • Can a child or elderly use your idea?
  • Can your idea serve differently abled people?

Example:

Hydrow used the traditional rowing machine to give the feel of watersports. This machine has a screen to train with real-life instructors from the water bodies. The smooth and silent maneuvering of the handle, chain, and flywheel gives each stroke the feel of being immersed in water.

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Eliminate

Elimination means any simplification or removal of superfluous things from a product to make it better. So, eliminate anything that is a hassle or complexity and develop sleek ideas.

Questions To Ask To Generate Ideas For Elimination:

  • What can you eliminate from a product or a process?
  • Is there a way to get rid of the harmful parts?
  • Can you eliminate some rules or a redundant process?
  • Can you get rid of the byproducts or biohazards?
  • What is unnecessary in your idea?
  • Can you simplify the idea / process / solution?

Example:

Magic Link eliminates the hassle of remembering passwords. It saves your users from the annoyance of forgotten passwords or the threat of stolen credentials. Users only need to click the magic link, and they receive a trial option on their mailbox or SMS.

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Reverse (Rearrange)

In this method, you reverse a problem or an idea, rearrange the design, go backward, or interchange the parts. This lets you see the idea from a different perspective.

Questions To Ask To Generate Ideas In Reverse Method:

  • What if you go backward?
  • Can you reverse a process and get results?
  • Can you turn your product upside down / inside out for use?
  • Can you rearrange some parts of the product to get benefits?
  • Is it possible to redesign some parts for better results?
  • Can you do the exact opposite of your idea?
  • Can you shift the initial step toward the end or vice versa?

Example:

Insta360 makes a range of cameras that aim at ‘shoot first, point later’ ideology. These cams are great for athletes and adventure sports. You can shoot with a device now and edit later with the app to create full immersive moments. One of the features in the software deletes the selfie stick, making your shoots look better.

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Wrapping Up

SCAMPER-ing your problems away and stimulating creative thinking with questions is an excellent tool to generate rough ideas that could be gems later. Ask questions and expose your idea to experiments. Questioning and trying new things are at the core of innovation. Happy ideating, innovating and inventing!

Have you used any other idea generation technique? Do let us know!

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