The SCAMPER Method
The SCAMPER Method was brainstorming technique originally created by Bob Eberald and has been adapted into various uses since its creation. The method helps us come up with new solutions and solve problems based on seven specific words or phrases:
· Minimize or magnify
· Put to another use
By using these words and phrases, we can ask specific questions to create something new or better. Below, I will explain each word or phrase briefly, share a few example questions, and then give a short example for each.
Every problem or solution has a variety of parts that can be replaced, or substituted with another part or a new part.
Questions: Can we find a cheaper material with the same quality? How can we find a simpler alternative? Where else can we use this product or service?
Example: Substituting imported materials with local materials. This might save money, carbon footprint (CO2), or time and also be good for the local community.
If we combine two products, services, or processes, they might synergistically create a new and more powerful result.
Questions: Can we combine two processes into one? Can we partner with another company in a beneficial way?
Example: The best example of this is the smartphone. It combined the personal computer with a phone, clock, camera, music player, and endless other features and apps.
Adjust something (product, process, or service) big or small to improve it for a new context or desired result.
Questions: How can we save more time with this process? How can we adjust this process to be more appealing to the consumer? How can we make this cheaper?
Example: Adapting the material of a smartphone’s outer shell allows them to prevent damage when the phone is dropped. Or waterproofing makes the phone even more resilient.
Magnify or Minimize
Magnify means to emphasize something, or increase something’s power, size, or frequency. Minimize means to deemphasize something, or decrease something’s power, size, or frequency.
Questions: How could be make the problem worse? What if we emphasized this product or service? What if we carry out this procedure more frequently?
Examples: Perhaps through this you could discover that you should send out newsletters once per week instead of once per month. Or, maybe realize that you should sell and advertise to the global market instead of only nationally.
Put to another use
This focuses on using something in a multipurpose way or repurposing, reusing, or recycling it.
Questions: How else can we use this (idea, product, or service)? How can a different department in our company use this in some way? Can we creatively use the scraps that we throw away?
Example: A leather bag company had various sizes of scrap leather and realized they could expand their market to leather keychains. This led them to expand further to leather wallets and belts that ended up being key to their company’s profitability and appeal.
Get rid of unnecessary processes, services, or products. This could streamline processes.
Questions: What step can we remove while maintaining our standard. What would we do if we only had half the resources? What if we stopped doing this step? What luxuries in our business are not essential? What parts of our business that we spend a lot of time on produce the least results?
Example: If we ask the employees, what would they say is wasteful and could be eliminated so that the time or money spent on it could be used for a better purpose? Their personal experience might be key to the entire company.
Change, or rearrange the order of steps, or go completely backwards.
Questions: What if we did this backwards? What if we mixed up the steps?
Example: If you always plan to exercise after work but are too tired and often skip, why not plan to exercise before work instead. Or, instead of replying to your work emails right away in the morning, what if you wait to reply until after you’ve done two hours of your most important work?
Some of these ideas overlap a lot. Some of the questions produce direct answers and some of the questions spark ideas completely unrelated. Either way, the key is to use the SCAMPER method to improve your business or life. Some questions may be difficult or strange for some situations, but if we just try them out, we might be surprised how powerfully they can transform the way we live and work.
Why not try it out the next time you face a problem or want to improve something. Doing it alone can be great, and doing it with other people can be even more powerful.
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